Keep Short-Term Rentals Legal in Wilmington

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Visitors have used short-term rentals for as long as Wilmington has existed. Short term rentals also serve as homes for Wilmington families during remodels, between leases, and during emergencies. They serve as guest bedrooms to welcome grandparents visiting grandchildren, and for parents and siblings visiting UNCW students. They provide new Wilmington families a clean, comfortable home to start a new chapter of their lives. Visiting professors, nurses, artists, musicians, actors, and others involved in film and digital media production all depend on short-term rentals.

Wilmington City Council members should recognize the value of short-term rentals in providing flexible housing, and legalize and formalize short-term rentals as a unique and valuable alternative for travelers. They should further remove the one-week minimal rental period that is hidden in the definition of a “dwelling unit.” Many short-term renters cannot afford to take an entire week (plus travel time) when they visit Wilmington. Weddings, conferences, sporting events, and family gatherings often require less than a week’s rental.

Wilmington city leaders also need to recognize that short-term rentals are a non-commercial activity, governed by the same or similar guidelines and laws as those governing long-term residential rental properties, including the absence of additional laws or ordinances for dealing with nuisance issues already covered under existing city codes.

Cities around the world that have created burdensome regulations, or implemented bans, end up with two unintended consequences. Because people have a choice of where to vacation and where to hold events, and because many of these people prefer short term rentals to hotels, they will vote with their feet and choose a different place to spend their money. And because other people will continue to have a need to come to Wilmington for work assignments, family gatherings, or hospitalizations, the short-term rental owners that remain will continue to operate underground, resulting in lost tax revenues.

Hiring additional planners, analysts, and code enforcement officers to determine if a short-term rental is complying with an arbitrary number of days per rental is ineffective and burdensome to Wilmington taxpayers.

Short-term rental owners contribute every month to the New Hanover County Room Occupancy Tax, which supports tourism promotion programs and beach renourishment. County tax administrator Roger Kelley told the Lumina News in August 2015 that his office very seldom finds short term rental owners who aren’t paying Room Occupancy Taxes.

Short term rental owners also create millions of dollars per year in economic impact for the community and contribute to the incomes of hundreds of local families through hiring local landscapers, accountants, housekeepers, managers, contractors, and more.

A recent analysis in nearby Myrtle Beach found that in 2013, short-term rentals generated $200.7 million in total economic activity, with $168.6 million directly attributable to visitor spending on short-term rentals and related food, retail, recreation, transportation and other expenses. For every $100 a traveler spent on lodging, they spent an additional $69 on food, $24 on local transportation, $48 on arts, entertainment, and recreation activities, and $59 on retail shopping.

The study also found short-term rental activity created 2,587 local jobs, primarily in restaurants and bars and in the arts, entertainment, retail and recreation sectors throughout the county. Beyond the $56.3 million in direct spending on short-term rentals, visitors spend money elsewhere in the local economy, which in turn has a ripple, or multiplier, effect.

Even the United States Conference of Mayors has stated: “Fair regulation of short-term rentals ensures greater compliance and greater receipt of local hotel taxes,” and, “Onerous regulations of short-term rentals can drive the industry underground, thus evading local regulations and local hotel taxes.”

Why jeopardize Wilmington’s success? Why try and find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist?

Please keep short-term rentals legal in all residential zoning districts, and please remove the arbitrary minimal rental period of one week that is hidden in the definition of a “dwelling unit.”

For more information, please visit The North Carolina Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity at http://ncalliance.net/



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