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  • Update on increasing short term rental restrictions in Asheville

    Tuesday, February 20, 2024   /   by Amy Brown

    Update on increasing short term rental restrictions in Asheville

    The second "town hall" meeting was held yesterday morning regarding the new proposals on the table further restricting short term rentals in Buncombe county. Mark attended so that he could bring you the latest news and updates.

    Why is the county considering additional regulations?

    Some residents are concerned that short term rentals are eliminating affordable housing, orienting the area more towards tourists, and pricing people out of the community. 

    What is the argument against?

    Short term rental homes are not affordable housing. The average value of a short term rental is $500,000. Also, many homeowners use their short term rentals to supplement their mortgage so that they can afford to live in more affluent areas and/or work in their desired career field, such as the arts. 

    How many short term rentals are there currently in Buncombe county? And what kind of growth have we seen?

    There were 5,268 short-term rentals in Buncombe County in 2022, accounting for about 4.5% of the county’s total housing stock, according to AirDNA data provided by the Buncombe County Planning Board.Short-term rentals in Asheville account for about 20% of that number, or a little more than 1,000 units.The short-term rental market has seen explosive growth in Buncombe County over the last several years. According to the Asheville Citizen Times, short-term rental sales grew from $18.7 million in 2016 to $229 million in 2022, an increase of more than 1,000%.

    What are the current restrictions on short-term rentals in Buncombe County?

    The Buncombe County government has control over short-term rental regulations only in unincorporated parts of the county — meaning that the rules don’t apply to the City of Asheville or other municipalities.

    A map of incorporated areas of Buncombe County.Buncombe County Open Data Explorer
    A map of incorporated areas of Buncombe County.
    Currently, Buncombe County allows short-term rentals in most parts of the county except for an area near Asheville Regional Airport. Short-term rentals are limited to a floor area of 9,000 square feet.There are different rules for vacation rental complexes and travel trailers — see this guide from the Buncombe County government for more.

    What are the current restrictions in Asheville?

    In Asheville, short-term rentals of an entire home have been tightly limited since 2018, when the City Council approved new restrictions on a 6-1 vote amid mounting concern over the city’s affordable housing supply. The restrictions prohibit short-term rentals of an entire home in most parts of the city except for the resort zoning district.“Homestays” are allowed. Those interested in applying for a permit can find more information here.Property owners who violate Asheville’s regulations may receive a notice of violation followed by a daily $500 fine and potential legal action by the city.According to the Asheville Planning and Economic Development Committee, as of November 2023, there were 861 homestays and 176 short-term rentals registered with the city.

    Why is the Buncombe County Commission considering new restrictions?

    The county commission began considering new short-term rental restrictions in response to public feedback it received last year as part of its Comprehensive Plan, its blueprint for the county’s growth over the next 20 years.“A key directive from that process was to mitigate the loss of year-round housing to short-term rentals,” the county says on its website outlining the proposed changes. The main goal of the restrictions, it says, is to “create more long-term rental and owner-occupied housing opportunities.”

    What are the proposed restrictions?

    The proposed Buncombe County restrictions would allow new short-term rentals only in commercial districts. They would lower the total permitted square-footage of each short-term rental and would prohibit such rentals in manufactured home parks and affordable housing developments.The proposed rules would also only allow short-term rentals in single-family detached units, and they would create special requirements for matters such as parking and waste disposal. Importantly, the restrictions would apply only to new short-term rentals. Owners of existing short-term rentals could apply for a zoning permit that would allow them to be grandfathered into the new rules.

    What have been the reactions among local residents?

    The proposed restrictions have prompted a flood of public comment. The Buncombe County Planning Board’s December meeting saw the highest number of attendees in recent memory, one member said, prompting the board to hold a special listening session earlier this month where residents shared at-times emotional and personal testimony on the issues.

    Residents attend a listening session held by the Buncombe County Planning Board on Jan. 22, 2024.Buncombe County Planning Board
    Some attendees voiced strong opposition to the proposed restrictions, arguing that short-term rentals have little impact on housing prices or availability and that such rentals provide an economic lifeline to homeowners during tough times.Others said that short-term rentals had contributed to the dearth of affordable housing in Buncombe County, both for individuals purchasing a new home and senior citizens living on a fixed income. In some cases, residents said short-term rentals had served to “fragment” their neighborhood or had even driven them out of their own homes.

    How and when will the County Commission decide?

    No specific timeline has been set. The Buncombe County Planning Board has been holding listening sessions and soliciting public feedback on the proposed restrictions. In the coming weeks, the board is expected to decide whether to recommend the proposal to the Buncombe County Commission.The next step would then be up to the County Commission.“They can either abide by what we say, or they can totally disregard it; they have that choice as well,” Buncombe County Planning Board Chair Nancy Waldrop said at the board’s Dec. 18 meeting. “So even if we decide one thing, they can decide something totally different. And that’s by state law.”

    Have any changes occurred in other municipalities?

    Woodfin has begun to enforce the ordinance it passed last year to tighten restrictions on the rentals, using the data firm Granicus to identify STRs, defined as whole home rentals, and homestays, where a resident rents out a portion of their home. All the identified rentals that were not in compliance with the new rules were recently sent violation notices and potentially face a $100 fine for every day the property remains in violation.

    The town wants to keep housing for community residents, whether long-term renters or homeowners. Woodfin has approximately 4,000 total housing units, with STRs comprising about 5% of the total.

    Woodfin’s ordinance forbids STRs in residential areas, but allows those who already owned and operated them in those areas to continue to do so. All whole home rentals are now required to have a town permit. New STR owners will be allowed only one permit, limiting investors from buying multiple properties for STR use.

    Under the ordinance, STRs also are required to be three bedrooms or fewer, and have off-street parking and proof of insurance. Special events are also prohibited.

    Black Mountain has had similar regulations up for vote in previous meetings but nothing has occurred or is on the ballot at this time.

    Weaverville is currently considering a similar regulatory standpoint to Woodfin.

    Where do we see the future of Airbnb in the Asheville area?

    Our prediction is that restrictions will tighten to some extent. We also predict that those restrictions will radiate throughout all areas of the county instead of remaining in the city limits only. However, we do not predict that all regulations will be accepted. 

    The safety factor is that anyone who currently owns or is looking to purchase a short term rental before the new regulations take effect will not be drastically affected and they will have a very lucrative asset since now the numbers of short term rentals will be a finite number.

    If you are in the market to purchase a short term rental property in this area, you will need to do it this Spring! We are investment property specialists, call us!