City moves toward major crackdown on short-term rentals

HOT MARKET: Short-term vacation rentals are popping up all over Asheville, such as two units at 19 Broadway above the Wasabi restaurant that were converted from residential to lodging in 2016, according to city records.  On Jan. 3, the Planning and Zoning Commission passed to City Council a zoning amendment that would greatly restrict STVRs across the city. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe
HOT MARKET: Short-term vacation rentals are popping up all over Asheville, such as two units at 19 Broadway above the Wasabi restaurant that were converted from residential to lodging in 2016, according to city records. On Jan. 3, the Planning and Zoning Commission passed to City Council a zoning amendment that would greatly restrict STVRs across the city. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe

Asheville took a big step down the road to limiting short-term rentals as the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of an amendment to the city’s zoning code on Jan. 3.

P&Z voted to recommend that City Council approve changes to the code to define “short-term vacation rentals,” or STVRs, separately from other types of lodging and to restrict where those rentals are permitted as a use by right.

Shannon Tuch, zoning administrator, told P&Z the amendment seeks to do three things: define lodging types that had previously been undefined; designate where each use is allowed; and require an annual permit for short-term vacation rentals. “Generally speaking, lodging facilities are going to be much more limited in where they can go moving forward without building in one of the lodging expansion districts,” she said.

P&Z Chair Laura Berner Hudson asked Tuch to reiterate the bottom line of the amendment. “So any short-term vacation rental now has to go through the entire conditional zoning process?” Hudson asked.

“Yes, unless it’s in the resort district,” Tuch responded. City Attorney Robin Currin clarified that this only applies to new STVRs; those that have already been submitted to the city for approval or that are already in place will be considered under the rules at the time of their application.

RENTALS IN OUR MIDST: The city of Asheville has seen an explosion of legal short-term vacation rentals in commercial districts. For example, four units upstairs at 25 Rankin Ave. have been permitted to change to lodging use in the past two years. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe
RENTALS IN OUR MIDST: The city of Asheville has seen an explosion of legal short-term vacation rentals in commercial districts. For example, four units upstairs at 25 Rankin Ave. have been permitted to change to lodging use in the past two years. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe

Under the proposed amendment, short-term vacation rentals are defined as “a dwelling unit with up to six guest rooms that is used and/or advertised through an online platform, or other media, for transient occupancy for a period of less than one month.” The change also creates new categories for large, small and extended-stay hotels and refines the definitions of bed-and-breakfasts and boardinghouses.

The new wording also nails down what a “dwelling unit” is and states: “In no case shall a dwelling unit be rented or leased for intervals of less than one month.” A dwelling unit means “one or more rooms physically arranged so as to create an independent housekeeping establishment for occupancy by one family with separate toilets and facilities for cooking and sleeping rooms and a kitchen,” the proposed amendment states. Homestays, which refers to a resident-occupied dwelling unit with up to two guest rooms, would still be permitted with special restrictions.

The move to target short-term vacation rentals has picked up steam in recent months as City Council has been made aware of a large and increasing number of illegal STVRs operating in residential districts, where they have already been banned, as well as new and existing condo units being converted from residential to lodging use in commercial districts where they are allowed.

During public comment at the P&Z meeting, Peter Landis, representing Downtown Asheville Residential Neighbors, implored the commission to restrict STVRs in the central business district. “A strong residential community does a lot to strengthen an urban core,” he said. “Space available for residential use in the CBD is limited. Every unit turned into a short-term rental is one less unit that can become someone’s home.” He said the tourists who make use of STVRs are welcome but they don’t contribute to the long-term health of the city the way that residents do.

Musician and recent City Council candidate Andrew Fletcher said residents who help create the city’s character have been kicked out of spaces in order to make room for Airbnbs. “I think it’s important to prevent our city from becoming another Aspen, or another city that’s been completely dominated by outsiders,” he said.

P&Z members expressed reluctance to implement an outright ban on STVRs across the city. Jim Edmonds said he understands the city’s desire to monitor short-term rentals, but he worries that stopping their expansion could also put a stop to their positive effects. He said he was also hesitant to put regulations on neighborhoods without hearing more from residents of those areas.

Hudson said STVRs have brought visitors to the city, which has in turn fueled a housing boom. She wondered if rather than banning such rentals, the city could use them to its advantage. “I think we would be remiss if we didn’t look at leveraging short-term rentals … because a lot of times they are used to subsidize housing. I don’t think they are technically necessarily completely negative,” she said.

While supporting a ban in residential districts, Hudson suggested the city look at allowing developers a certain percentage of STVRs in new construction if they are also providing affordable units. “I think we could get something out of it instead of just stopping the pipeline,” she said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved recommending the wording amendment in a vote of 4-1, with Hudson, Joe Archibald, Tony Hauser and Guillermo Rodriguez voting in favor and Edmonds voting against it. It now moves to City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

 

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About Carolyn Morrisroe
Carolyn Morrisroe is the news editor and city government reporter at Mountain Xpress. She can be reached at cmorrisroe@mountainx.com. Follow me @CarolynMorrisro

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26 thoughts on “City moves toward major crackdown on short-term rentals

  1. Austin Hill

    I was kinda hoping that with Hunt and Smith losing elections the elite hoteliers and “leaders” would begin to realize that the people of this city wanted people who were a little more creative at dealing with this issue. So…..they put a ton of money to eventually…….BAN ALL STR’S IN ASHEVILLE FOREVER. We one with the ballot (I am aware Smith didn’t lose a Council election) and kept the hotel stooges out of council, but alas God Bless America, the money always wins out and council always makes decisions that make it harder to live here for an average person. I have previously identified with being a liberal but this town and it’s council has allowed me to develop a deep disdain for the liberal and meddlesome city government. Still down with all the cool people making stuff happen!!

    • luther blissett

      The idea that AirBnB “hosts” are somehow the heroic vanguard of opposition to hotel developers is all kinds of ridiculous. One side’s Mission, the other is Blue Cross Blue Shield. Choose which part you prefer to play.

      “council always makes decisions that make it harder to live here for an average person”

      Are you referring to the average person who [peers at notes] owns property in a pleasant part of the city, has enough free space to rent it out to vacationers, and the time to manage it? Because that’s not the average person.

      • Lulz

        The idea that a ban will increase housing stock while luxury condos go up left and right is absurd lulz. But as we are reading, lefty loons are getting a bad rep. And if it persists, will be replaced by AirBnB advocates. You simply cannot tell people what to do on their property. From illegal smoking bans to AirBnBs.

        • NFB

          “You simply cannot tell people what to do on their property. ”

          Great. I’m looking for a place to build a asphalt plant. Next door to you sounds like a great place. See ya!

          • Lulz

            By all means go for it. Too bad the roads won’t allow the big trucks to go there though. But if you pay to expand them great. See unlike you, I don’t prevent people from utilizing their property. And if they want to use it as an asphalt plant or AirBnb then that’s their business. Not yours. But little authoritarians LIEberals are starting to stink up the area with their rules. Rules that keep others in poverty.

          • luther blissett

            It’ll go great with the chicken slaughterhouse on the other side.

      • NFB

        AirBnb is a corporation valued at over 30 BILLION dollars. They have no interest in the “average person.”

        The “average person” in Asheville is struggling to find housing that they can afford in part because so much housing if out of the housing market because of short term rentals

        More housing for tourists = less housing for residents which thus equals higher rents for residents. Supply and demand is the first rule of our economy and it is amazing how so many apologists for a massive corporation like AirBnB can’t seem to grasp that. The “sharing economy” is s sham, and AirBnB is the poster child of its scam artists.

        • Lulz

          Really LOL? Then why are there luxury this and luxury that going up instead of low income housing? If people are going to pay 750K for a condo, do you honestly believe up the road that the houses won’t be catching up to those prices?

          The only thing people like you advocate is for those that can barely afford to keep what they got to get out.

    • hauntedheadnc

      A few points…

      1. The “average person” can’t afford multiple properties to rent out as tourist housing. The “average person” in Asheville, making an average Asheville wage, cannot afford one property to call their own.

      2. Part of the reason the “average person” in Asheville cannot afford one house, let alone several to rent out as tourist housing, is that other property owners are actively making the housing shortage worse by removing supply in the face of ever-increasing demand. That drives prices up even further than they would otherwise go.

      3. If you can afford multiple properties to rent out as tourist housing, you are not an “average person” in Asheville, where a 2bed/1bath bungalow sells for upwards of $350k when it would sell for $150K or less anywhere — dare we say it — average. As such you don’t get to cry poverty.

      4. Just out of curiosity, but what percentage of the city’s housing stock should be turned over to tourist housing? Bear in mind that if you say the mystical, magical “Market” should dictate, the mystical, magical Market operates in a situation where a city of 90,000 is entertaining 10,000,000 tourists a year. The Market could conceivably dictate that every residential unit in and near downtown could be converted into tourist housing and find renters, and the Market could conceivably dictate that every housing unit in the entire city could be converted into tourist housing and find renters. So think on it and let us know what percentage of the city’s housing stock should be turned over to the tourists. I’m genuinely curious to know.

      5. Cool people don’t actively work to make the city even more unaffordable than it already is by converting residential units into tourist housing , or by throwing out businesses like the Altamont Theatre and artists’ and recording studios in favor of tourist housing.

      • Lulz

        LOL, cool people don’t actively promote bogus tax increases which go to pay for the decor of evil cronies like Wanda Greed and then vilify property owners.

      • bsummers

        And those 10,000,000 tourists pay virtually nothing towards the impact on the City’s budget – streets, sidewalks, police & fire, etc. Those things are paid for by the permanent residents.

  2. BMacAVL

    @Austin Hill; I completely agree with your narrative “this town and it’s council has allowed me to develop a deep disdain for the liberal and meddlesome city government. Still down with all the cool people making stuff happen!!”

    Hopefully several of those “cool people making stuff happen!!” …around town will eventually get the city council to side with small business(as the council has “claimed” to do in the past) rather than “part-term-resident” hoteliers dictating new regulations to make themselves more $,$$$,$$$,$$$ each year through essentially “buying” exclusivity within the STR marketplace. With each new regulation we continue inching closer and closer to a time where local small business are pushed out of downtown or any prime commercial space. My hope is that our city council stops, or at the very least, slows down on trying to drive more tourism before taking care of local level issues that burden LOCAL TAX PAYERS! I wish they would stop listening to all the corporate/out-of-WNC, “deep pocket” businesses pushing for “NEW REGULATIONS” for personal/corporate gain. History tells me this is not possible due to basic human nature which is greedy…but the notion that others in town feel the same way about this issues gives me slight comfort and a small glimpse of hope…although I’m still not holding my breath since GREED does role the world.

    The last council was poor but as you stated this one saw the dollar signs(and whatever else these hoteliers are “gifting” members) and the green eyed monster reared its ugly head once again. SMH

    “I love my country(cough**CITY**cough), not my government.” ― Jesse Ventura

    “Leave everybody alone. Let everybody else do what they want. Just stay out of everybody else’s hair.” ― Clint Eastwood

    • Lulz

      LIEberals don’t care if you starve unless it helps them somehow lulz. Better remember that. For all their posturing and phony caring you must ask what is the end result.

    • bsummers

      City Council does not drive tourism, that is the Tourism Development Authority, whose Board is dominated by hotel owners. They get tens of millions of tax dollars to attract more and more and more tourists here. City Council has no direct control over that revenue stream or the TDA’s activities. They occasionally have to go hat in hand to them begging for some of that money for infrastructure projects.

      And if you’re not sure all this is a good thing, the TDA spent some of that State-collected tax money on slick advertising aimed at you, telling you how great it is to live in a tourism-dominated City, you ungrateful so-and-so. Here’s one:

      Tourism Builds Community
      https://youtu.be/FwJvhdrZ0Mw

      BTW, they ran those local ads and other content meant to influence Asheville residents and voters that tourism is great and shiny… during the last City Council campaign. In which there were several TDA-friendly candidates running. And in which the TDA was a major issue.

      Just sayin’…

      • luther blissett

        “the TDA spent some of that State-collected tax money on slick advertising aimed at you”

        And of course, their ad agency is based in New Orleans.

      • Lulz

        LOL but can’t they dissolve the TDA? Lemme guess, Raleigh. Yet no one here advocates for its dissolution. Only as a means to get SOME of the money. But as we’ve witnesses, funds are railroaded to Tryon of all places to advertise the steeple chase lulz. So is the TDA merely a symptom of government cronyism or a part of it?

    • luther blissett

      This really is a small-scale repeat of Mission vs BCBS. The rhetoric’s the same, the false dichotomy’s the same, and the average person is rooting for both sides to lose.

      “get the city council to side with small business”

      Hope you got to see a show in the Altamont before it closed. Or does that small business not count?

        • luther blissett

          “With each new regulation we continue inching closer and closer to a time where local small business are pushed out of downtown or any prime commercial space.

          Reading is fundamental guffaw chuckle giggle psfhsdft.

  3. Ex Castillo

    The regulation effort has to be based on this constitutional right. Law making bodies has to set not a uniform rule but an equal rule that protects the property rights of homeowners and its neighbors. We have to identify if the chaos in the area is of solely caused by vacation rentals or simply if the existence of them are already been observed. Find measures in which vacation rental business runs in accordance with the regulations set. Other states were able to manage vacation rental business fostering economic growth on those cities. Focusing mainly on its impact to homeowners associations and its neighbors are relatively issues losing the opportunity of vacation rental business to grow. Another great site that helps vacation rental owners find travelers is Rentalo.com — You can add your listing for free and then pay a fee when booked — check details at http://rentalo.com/vacation

    • Lulz

      You must confuse the cronies in this town with being pro choice. They ain’t.

      • liberal

        Lulz, favorite words. liberal and crony, every thread, of every post, we never get tired of seeing these same two words, ever

        • Lulz

          LOL, well how about Wanda Greed, inept county commissioners who allowed not only her sticky paws into the cookie jar but also nepotism. And the LIEberals didn’t do a damn thing about it.

  4. Enlightened Enigma

    ok people, the reason that rents are ‘so high’ here are because all the hipsters want to be here, at least for a while, but there is turnover happening too…

    Asheville leaders should encourage the younger residents to find work and stability outside of Asheville for better overall opportunities, unless they have good employment lined up here…

    The amazing new homeless veterans tower is about to be built on Tunnel Road with new CLT technology! It’s for average people!

    • luther blissett

      How about “encouraging” old people to sell up, downsize and vacate their big ol’ under-occupied houses? Or “encouraging” owners of multiple “investment” properties to sell on the ones they rent out and get a respectable job instead? I like this game!

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