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The Evolving Landscape of Short-Term Rentals in Buncombe County

Your Comprehensive Guide from Dawn Wilson Realty

Today at Dawn Wilson Realty, we're taking a closer look at the shifting landscape of short-term rentals (a.k.a Airbnbs and VRBOs) in our beloved Buncombe County. The lush mountains and vibrant culture of our area have always attracted visitors, but it's the recent surge in short-term rental regulations that's been the talk of the town. Let's dive into what these changes could mean for you, whether you're a current resident, a renter, a hopeful newcomer, or a property owner in our community.

A Brief in Buncombe County

Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Buncombe County spans approximately 660 square miles, encompassing Asheville's urban charm and the quaint allure of small towns like Black Mountain, Montreat, Weaverville, and Woodfin.

The Beginnings of Regulation in the City of Asheville

The journey began in 2015 when Asheville introduced measures to regulate short-term rentals, followed by a more stringent ban in 2018 that only allowed rentals in designated "resort" zones. This decisive action, passed by a 6 to 1 vote, reflected a growing concern for the city's affordable housing market.

For those who sidestep these rules, the repercussions are tangible—a notice of violation, a hefty daily fine of $500, and the looming threat of legal action.

As we stood in November 2023, 176 short-term rentals were officially registered in Asheville, underscoring a community adapting to a regulated rental environment.

Origins of Buncombe County's Proposed Regulations on STRs

The tail end of 2023 brought forth a Buncombe County Planning Board meeting that put proposed rental restrictions under the microscope. These proposals are a response to public feedback, a pivotal aspect of the county's Comprehensive Plan focused on the next two decades of growth.

The county's ambition is clear: to mitigate the depletion of year-round housing due to the rise of short-term rentals and to bolster long-term rental and homeowner prospects.

Short-Term Rental's Market Impact

It's impossible to overlook the meteoric rise of the short-term rental market here—revenue rocketed from $18.7 million in 2016 to an astonishing $229 million in 2022. There were 5,268 short-term rentals in Buncombe County in 2022, which accounts for about 4.5% of the county's total housing stock, according to AirDNA data that has been provided to the Buncombe County Planning Board.

The Specifics of the New Proposal

The County's proposed restrictions are set to redefine the short-term rental scene significantly:

  • New short-term rentals would be confined to commercial districts.
  • There would be a reduction in the permitted square footage for short-term rentals from 9,000 to 4,000 square feet.
  • Prohibitions would be placed on rentals within manufactured home parks and affordable housing developments.
  • Short-term rentals would be limited to single-family detached units, with additional requirements for parking and waste disposal.
  • These restrictions would only apply to new rentals. Owners of existing short-term rentals could apply for a zoning permit that would allow them to be grandfathered into the new rules.
  • There would be a minimum rental requirement of two nights every 180 days to maintain status as a grandfathered STR.
  • The grandfathered status of pre-existing, non-conforming short-term rental ends when ownership is transferred by deed. This means when the owner of a grandfathered property sells that property to a new owner, its grandfathered status will be revoked and the property will not be eligible to be used as a short-term rental.

The Voice of the People

The public's reaction has been robust and diverse, with some citing the fragmentation of communities due to short-term rentals and others defending the economic relief these rentals provide. Opponents of the regulations also maintain that short-term rentals have not significantly impacted the availability of affordable housing in Asheville. They point out that despite nearly a decade of regulatory measures for short-term rentals, the city continues to face challenges with affordable housing shortages and escalating home prices.

Looking Forward

It’s important to note that the Buncombe County government has control over short-term rental regulations only in unincorporated parts of the county - meaning the rules wouldn't apply to the City of Asheville or other municipalities, like Black Mountain, Montreat, Woodfin or Weaverville. It's also worth mentioning, though, that governing bodies in many of those municipalities are also having their own, separate discussions around possible restrictions on short-term rentals.

As we await the County Commission's verdict on the proposed restrictions, the Planning Board will continue its public engagement, offering a platform for community voices to be heard.

The first of the Planning Board work sessions was held on Monday, February 5th.

The second work session will be on Monday, February 19 at 9:30am in the 3rd Floor Chambers at 200 College Street, Asheville.

Your Real Estate Partners

As the narrative around short-term rentals unfolds, rest assured that we at Dawn Wilson Realty are keeping a pulse on every twist and turn. Our role transcends that of REALTORS®; we're your consultants, your confidants, your community advocates. Whether you're contemplating a purchase, a sale, or an investment, we're here to equip you with the latest intel and advice to navigate this evolving real estate landscape.

Let Us Know What You Think

We would love to hear what you have to say about short-term rentals in our area. Do you think they contribute to the lack of affordable housing? Do you think property owners have the right to use their homes as income producing properties? Comment below.



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