Planning & Zoning considers expansion of homestay ordinance

Asheville city seal

At its regular meeting on May 4, Asheville’s Planning & Zoning Commission will vote on a proposed zoning amendment to allow short-term rentals in accessory dwelling units under the city’s homestay ordinance. Whether or not it passes muster with P&Z, the amendment will then go before City Council for a vote at an upcoming Council meeting.

The active — and sometimes heated — debate over whether short-term rentals ought to be allowed in Asheville has raged for more than two years. While leaving the existing prohibition on whole-house, stand-alone rentals for periods of less than 30 days unchanged, City Council passed an ordinance expanding a form of short-term rentals known as homestays on Nov. 17 last year. The ordinance allows home owners or tenants to rent a maximum of two bedrooms in a primary residence on a short-term basis. The permanent resident must be licensed by the city and must be present during the stay.

The current homestay ordinance explicitly prohibits the use of accessory dwelling units (known as ADUs) for short-term stays. Some examples of ADUs include garage apartments, basement apartments, attached “in-law” suites and backyard cottages. ADUs are self-contained living spaces which include kitchens. In 2015, City Council loosened zoning requirements for building new ADUs, citing the city’s need for affordable housing as the reason for encouraging more small units spread throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

On Dec. 8 last year, City Council asked the city’s planning and urban design department to research the impact of expanding homestays to ADUs. Council specifically asked for information on how such an action would affect neighborhoods and affordable housing. They also asked planners to gather public input on the possible change and to research the experiences of comparable cities.

A memo prepared by planner Shannon Tuch for P&Z reports that the reactions of the public and of city volunteer boards and commissions to the idea of allowing homestays in ADUs has been decidedly mixed. Citizens who responded to an online survey at the city’s public engagement website Open City Hall came out strongly in favor of the change, while the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory and Housing and Community Development committees oppose it. Tuch’s memo points out that respondents to the public survey were overwhelmingly home owners rather than renters. Thus, those Asheville residents policy makers worry would be negatively affected by the proposed change (by reducing the number of units available for long-term rental) do not appear to have participated in the survey in significant numbers.

Projects to be reviewed

P&Z will review several proposed construction projects:

  • Two new buildings at Asheville Outlets at 800 Brevard Rd. One multi-tenant building will total 75,000 square feet, while the second is 8,000 square feet. Taken together with the recently-constructed Field & Stream building, the total size of new construction on the site requires Level III review; after P&Z’s vote, the project will head to City Council for a quasi-judicial review for a conditional use permit.

    A third phase of construction at Asheville Outlets on Brevard Road will add 83,000 square feet of space in two new buildings.
    A third phase of construction at Asheville Outlets on Brevard Road will add 83,000 square feet of space in two new buildings.
  • 600-unit, three-story self-storage facility at 1292 Hendersonville Rd. (adjacent to Copper River Grille to the south)
  • Six buildings at 257 and 263 Long Shoals Rd. adjacent to Lake Julian. The buildings comprise a total of 56,500 square feet of commercial space, including retail, office, service and restaurant uses.
  • 290-unit multi-family residential apartments in eight separate buildings off Long Shoals Road adjacent to T.C. Roberson High School and the Zeugner Recreation Center. The parcel addresses are 55 Miami Circle and 70 Allen Ave. The Miami Circle property is currently home to a mobile home park with 55 rental units, all of which are proposed to be removed to make way for the development.
  • 45 residential units on 1.85 acres known as 3, 5 and 99999 Atkins St., which intersects with Hendersonville Road in South Asheville south of Skyland Baptist Church.

Meeting details

The meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 4 at 5:00 p.m. in the first floor conference room at City Hall. A pre-meeting to review the agenda will begin at 4:30 p.m.

Documents and staff reports are available here.

The next meeting of P&Z will take place June 1 at 5:00 p.m.





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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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19 thoughts on “Planning & Zoning considers expansion of homestay ordinance

  1. Gordon Smith

    “How many local people will be evicted or denied housing in Asheville to make room for more tourists in our neighborhoods? That is the question coming before City Council this month. Asheville is in a time of rapid change and a severe housing crisis. Rental housing is the most expensive in North Carolina. Rental vacancies are less than 1 percent. These conditions are pushing people out of the city and into the county to find a home. This disconnects them from their communities, makes housing more expensive because of travel costs, undercuts the city’s diversity, and promotes sprawl development.

    When City Council voted last year to make it easier for people to build structures like garage apartments or tiny houses (Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs) on their property, we made good on a promise to address the housing crisis with many strategies. Council created a win-win approach – making it easier for homeowners to build wealth by adding long-term rental housing for locals. Add to that the city’s focus on neighborhood organizing and planning, and you have the recipe for tightly knit, prosperous, and safe neighborhoods.

    On the other side of the issue is a huge multinational corporation four times the size of Marriott Hotels and a local special interest group. If they’re successful, local renters will be pushed out, and the tourism business will move into our residential neighborhoods. AirBnB, a $24 billion megacorporation, has been sending its lobbyists to influence City Council. Some who want more tourists in neighborhoods have threatened to join forces with Raleigh Republicans to strip the city of its powers to protect our citizens.

    Asheville already struggles with tourism and a sense of uncertainty about how to hold on to our culture. We need a sustainable, deliberate strategy to address economic, environmental, and social elements of the tourist industry. We need the time to come together to understand how tourist housing in Asheville’s neighborhoods will affect our social fabric. Rushing to deny homes to locals and evict families in order to make room for tourists is reckless and irresponsible. In the words of another City Council member, it is better to measure twice and cut once. Otherwise we risk cutting people off from housing and cutting the ties that bind our community.

    Affordable housing champions, neighborhood advocates, and policy leaders agree that Asheville should not do away with housing options and neighborhood protections. These diverse stakeholders are rarely in full agreement on an issue, but they have come together to recognize that pushing our neighbors out of their homes in order to bring tourists into our neighborhoods is a lose-lose for Asheville.

    The housing crisis is real, and it affects us all. Keeping our neighborhoods safe and connected is a fundamental good. We need to broaden housing choices and strengthen neighborhoods. We should not enact policies that will evict our residents and push more tourism into our neighborhoods. Displacing locals and fragmenting communities would take Asheville in exactly the wrong direction.”

  2. There are clearly two sides to the question. Affordability comes in many forms. For empty nesters and retirees the ability to maximize use of their property through STRs can be a part of continuing to live in Asheville or to age in place. There can be a middle ground between a flat ban on rental of ADUs for short term and a wide open market – with restrictions on who can get licensure, parking rules, inspections, notification of neighbors and local management on call 24/7.

    Liberal politics sometimes bifurcates on libertarian lines, and this is one example. Do people have a right to use their property as they wish, or can government impose arbitrary restrictions? Historically zoning has been a benefit and a curse – creating differential uses that constrained individuals from doing harm as well as restricting efficiency. Long commutes, for example, are a relic of old zoning decisions.

    I remain convinced that black markets are impossible to regulate and that legalization, licensing, inspection, insurance and enforcement can make STRs work for the broader community.

    As for the specific argument on ADUs, it seems pretty stupid to me that the whole question pivots around a stove. If you rent space in your home without a stove it is a Homestay … that is, as long as your guests have to cook in your kitchen. But if they have a separate stove it is an ADU and (currently) cannot be rented short term. Nuts.

    • Grant Milin

      Responsible, sustainable markets can come from mostly ethical market actors with relative parity. But “Asheville renter” and “power parity” are hardly synonymous concepts around here.

      The relatively noble but hardly transformational triage approach to healing all the harms to Asheville renters taken by Pisgah Legal Services and the mystery as to whether COA has any working class or low income renters on boards and commissions is the difference between other parties—like government and property owners—talking about renter problems like affordability… with no renters at the table negotiation the position of average Asheville renters, and there being an actual effort to relinquish some deserved power to the half of the Asheville population that rents their housing.

      None of the slick, self-aggrandizing bully-libertarian ideals about natural law and some sort of magical general equilibrium are occurring in most of the USA if the citizen is a renter. So who is really kicking ass to bring renters to the power negotiations around here? Surely more renters attending more P&Z and council meetings isn’t the only solution.

    • luther blissett

      “I remain convinced that black markets are impossible to regulate and that legalization, licensing, inspection, insurance and enforcement can make STRs work for the broader community.”

      In which case, it’s only a matter of time before City Council ends up with a regulatory model that allows property speculators to rent out their residential portfolios a week at a time, because that’s what’s going to happen and what’s already happening under the radar.

      AirBnB shows no intention of policing their listings and removing ones that are non-compliant with local laws: instead it covers its rear in the Terms and Conditions. A recent survey of San Francisco listings showed more illegal ones than legal; instead of removing those illegal listings, AirBnB is busily buying off SF politicians.

      For once I agree with Gordon Smith: if AirBnB doesn’t get exactly what it wants from City Council — which is ultimately ‘anything goes as long as AirBnB gets its cut’ — it’ll just make sure that the state legislature in Raleigh removes the city’s right to set limits on short-term rentals, because we know how much the state legislature is full of Republicans who love NC’s cities so much. They’ll probably even divert the “taxes” from short-term rentals away from Asheville to fund their lily-white GOP-voting small towns.

      It’ll be up to residents to report trouble from upscale tourist flophouses or brewery-tour-bros sleeping in Montford toolsheds.

      • Not familiar with the specific law in SF. Of course housing in SF has been “unaffordable” for decades, and to blame it on STRs seems a bit of a stretch. Same here, really. A recent article in the Washington Post indicated that housing prices in Asheville have jumped far more than the national average in the past year (and one could reasonably infer for some years before that). STRs are not the cause of the price jump, they are a reaction to the crazy popularity of Asheville which is fed by the fact that this is a great place to live, is hyped endlessly by the TDA, and so on. What we need more than anything is an increase in the minimum wage and a full employment economy. There is no possible local solution to the national problem.

        • luther blissett

          ‘Of course housing in SF has been “unaffordable” for decades, and to blame it on STRs seems a bit of a stretch.’

          Well, Cecil, it’s a good job I didn’t make that accusation.

          While you seem to think STRs will put money in the pockets of empty nesters and retirees, isn’t it more likely that it’s going to flow to property speculators and landlords? (The idea that barring LLCs and corps somehow will dissuade them seems… naive.) And even if it does go to long-term homeowners, don’t they already benefit from housing equity? That sounds to me like redistribution from the affluent to the affluent at the expense of the poor. If they want to maximize the value of their property, they can get a reverse mortgage.

          Isn’t it also giving the finger to other homeowners who bought in the expectation that they weren’t going to be living alongside tourist flophouses? You don’t get to pick your neighbors, but you generally get to pick whether you have neighbors instead of an ever-changing guest list.

          That’s all before considering the impact on Asheville’s renters, especially in the more walkable and transit-friendly parts of the city. Sucks to be them.

          AirBnB has apparently agreed to start policing its listings in SF to remove ones that don’t comply with the city’s bylaws. I assume that you made clear to the AirBnB lobbyist that you’d expect the same for Asheville?

      • Belong Anywhere Asheville

        Airbnb has clear terms and policies in their listing agreement, as well as guiding documents that advise hosts to investigate their local laws and ordinances. Hosts all across the world have found the listings deleted when local governments have rules and regulations for properties that provide short term lodging. This is why local Asheville STR Advocates are encouraging City Council and Staff to include ADU’s as permitted Homestays and consider these restrictions:
        -Capping the number of ADUs allowed to do short-term rentals.
        -Requiring a set distance between them.
        -Allowing only existing ADUs to engage in the practice.
        -Having a “cooling-off” period in which new ADUs had to wait several years before renting short term.
        -Requiring each ADU applicant to get approval from the council.

  3. W can’t know what Raleigh will do. But if we had a system that only allowed one permit per owner, with corporations and LLCs excluded, and which required advertising to include the license number, at least we could easily see which ads were for legal and which for illegal rentals. As it is, advertising is free speech and perfectly legal no matter the status of the rental.

  4. Austin Hill

    Asheville supports ADU’s as vacation rentals 3-1!!!!! That’s not even close! I guess Gordon is gonna have to lose his next election (Hunt) before he starts paying attention.

  5. Emily Richter

    Having bought a home with an “accidental” ADU- basement apartment that has a stove. I can tell you that I will either be able to use it as an STR or I will not rent it out at all. The space is not appropriate for a long term resident due to sound transmission from upstairs and the fact that I want to be able to use it for friends and family when they come to visit. It is appalling that local government feels that ADUs are the solution to Asheville’s housing problem. Way to be shortsighted and punish homeowners for wanting to make the most of their investments. Tourists are not the bane on this city that everyone portrays them as. I find it very disturbing that so many people have either never traveled themselves or cannot accept that tourists are, for the most part, here to enjoy the same things we love about our city and area. Stop criminalizing homeowners and tourists and allow ADUs as STRs!!

  6. Although they appear to take opposing sides here, Smith and Bothwell continue to share their lack of problem solving skills.

    Rather than asserting factless nonsense, how about gathering some facts?

    Critical to making a solid decision here would be to know how many long term Asheville residents rent an ADU today. If that number is tiny, allowing rentals would have limited impact on long term rates. If the number is large, there is risk.

    Just keep guessing tho Gordo and Beanie and continue to wonder why the state takes over more and more of what could be your job.

    • Virginia Daffron

      Ashe Villager, your point about needing more data upon which to base any decision is one which various members of City Council have often made. Again at yesterday’s P&Z meeting, city staff reported that obtaining that data is not possible. There is not data to establish a total number of existing ADUs, let alone how many of them are rented to long or short term tenants.

      • With all due respect to our august elected officials and staff, that is an unacceptable answer. Data is always available. You might just have to work for it a bit.

        These are the same staff members who can’t look up on AirBNB and see who is violating current law.

        • Grant Milin

          Certificates of Occupancy need to be in electronic format and ID’d as ADU or other.

          I tried to find out the last time anyone with COA looked into polybutylene plumbing in Asheville rental units (a source of water damage, mold, etc.). One member of city council said he thought that such questions would be an unnecessary burden on staff. It turned out all that was required was finding staff who worked for COA long enough.

          The last time that question was addressed in any way involving COA was around 1993 here in Asheville.

          • Grant Milin

            I can’t believe I replied to an anonymous avatar. Darn it!

  7. STR Myths

    A fellow local operated a short term rental. They relied on this income with a new child and the mother not working as much as a result of too expensive childcare. When 40 locals were turned in by another local to the City’s Development Office, this family was shut down and lost a source of income. They then rented their property as a long term rental. Now, the long term Renter operates the property as a Homestay, which is seen as legit. Though the owners are fine with this, since this source of income makes their renter’s home more affordable which is what they themselves were trying to do.

    The current policies make for confusing allowable use of property. As an owner in the above case, short term rental is not allowed yet that same property with a renter in it IS allowed to operate short term rental through Homestay.

    • Your story does sound like a myth. If the scenario is legal, one spouse should just rent the ADU to the other spouse on a long term basis for $1 a month. Then proceed with short term rentals as before.

      • Grant Milin

        Before you get to feeling you have a legitimate position to influence anything around here, tell us who you are, Anonymous Avatar ‘Ashe Villager’.

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