Buncombe considers incentives to convert short-term rentals to affordable housing

As the Buncombe County Planning Board considers banning new short-term rentals in unincorporated parts of the county, commissioners are making moves to convert existing STRs into affordable housing.

At its meeting on Tuesday, April 2, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will consider launching a pilot program that could transition up to 20 units from STRs to affordable long-term rentals for residents in its first year.

The program will focus on tenants making between 50% and 80% of the area median income, and could cost the county between $240,000 and $390,000, according to a staff presentation. An existing county program targets residents who make less than 50% of the area median income.

If approved, Thrive Asheville — a nonprofit civic infrastructure initiative — will start with a discovery phase to determine the feasibility of an incentive program. Thrive will conduct focus groups and surveys with property owners and tenants in this phase — slated to cost $15,000 — and develop a blueprint for the pilot program’s implementation. If it’s determined that the program will not be sufficiently successful, it will be abandoned, according to the presentation.

After the discovery phase, if the program appears feasible, Thrive will conduct a two-month marketing campaign and a four-month application period before the program enters an ongoing management phase.

Individual incentives range from $4,000-$8,000 for studio apartments and $10,000-$20,000 for a three-bedroom unit, according to the presentation. Thrive expects to spend between $135,000 and $275,000 on incentives during the one-year program.

Buncombe’s Affordable Housing Subcommittee recommended commissioners approve Thrive’s proposal to move forward with the initial discovery phase.

In other news

Commissioners will consider passing a 2024 legislative agenda outlining goals for the upcoming 2024 short session of the N.C. General Assembly.

The financial wishlist for commissioners includes funding for educators; water quality, flood resiliency and stormwater mitigation projects in the French Broad River basin; water and sewer projects to extend service to southwestern Buncombe; and McCormick Field upgrades.

As part of its policy objectives, commissioners have directed its lobbying firm to oppose any state-level proposals that would limit local governments’ ability to regulate short‐term rentals or online marketplaces. Additionally, lobbyists will push legislators to “continue to evaluate methods to modernize occupancy tax guidelines to meet the evolving visitation and infrastructure needs of Buncombe County,” according to the agenda.

Funding for early childhood education and broadband infrastructure also made the list of priorities.

The short session — which occurs in even years and can last anywhere from six weeks to several months — starts Wednesday, April 10 in Raleigh, according to the legislative calendar.

Commissioners will also hear an update on the potential redevelopment of 50 and 52 Coxe Ave. into affordable housing units.

The UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative conducted community engagement sessions in February and will present its findings at the April 2 meeting.

A development would create between 130 and 200 affordable units on the site and would need additional investment of between $4.2 to $16.1 million, depending on the design.

Consent agenda

The consent agenda for the meeting contains six items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:

  • Approval to transfer two properties to the City of Asheville to be used as part of two city parks, Walton Street Park in the Southside neighborhood and West Asheville Park off Brevard Road. A county staff panel determined it’s not feasible to develop the lots.
  • Approval of a $808,400 contract with Clark Peterson Lee for the renovation of the Buncombe County Courthouse.
  • Approval of a resolution appointing Assistant Finance Director Mason Scott as deputy finance director. If approved, Scott and his successor will be empowered to approve certain actions or sign pre-audit certificates in the absence of or at the direction of the finance director, according to the resolution.

The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. The briefing meeting usually held at 3 p.m. has been canceled.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in room 326 at 200 College St., Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and the regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.



Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Buncombe considers incentives to convert short-term rentals to affordable housing

  1. dyfed

    Jeez, you don’t need to offer ‘incentives’ to create more housing instead of STRs; that’s just an expensive giveaway to capture a tiny fraction of the housing in Buncombe. Just upzone SFH neighborhoods to allow medium density (hell, even quads), reduce setbacks, and watch the developers rush to create more workforce housing.

    If you want more in expensive housing, let people build it.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.