Letter: Homestay rules penalize city residents

Graphic by Lori Deaton

One example of how our local government gets stuck in the weeds — versus putting energy into how to be more efficient and effective as a government — is the issue of homestay rentals in Asheville. I believe affordable housing is unbelievably important for the health of any community, and I would venture to say that all our Council members would agree, hence why it is such a big topic. However, is the best approach to use our most valuable resource, our energy in a moment of time, to jump into the weeds of the issue and ultimately try to control the marketplace while simultaneously we waste millions of dollars on ineffective government organizational structure?

At the current time, homestay rental policies for Asheville city and Buncombe County are not aligned. To make matters more unfair, if you live in the city, you pay significantly more taxes than people who live in the county (double taxation). While at the same time, people who live and own property in Buncombe County, who pay less taxes, can have as many homestay rentals as they would like with little to no restrictions on the amenities of the homestay portion of the house. However, those of us who are inside the city line are not able to benefit from the same opportunities. Currently, City Council has some of the strictest homestay rental policies in the country. In the city limits, you are not able to put a regular kitchen sink in a bar area that is in the homestay portion of the house, nor have a larger, second normal-size refrigerator or stove.

To make matters even more misaligned, recovery homes and halfway houses are popping up all over the city and are granted less restrictive living policies than the homestay rental policies. Anybody can open a recovery home or halfway house in any neighborhood in the city. Investors who are in this business can open multiple of these homes without being limited to one or having to live in the house like city homestay rental policies dictate.

In my case, this really hit home when an investor who bought the house next door to me opened a recovery home for recovering addicts on a substandard lot that the city sold back in the ’80s as part of an affordable housing initiative for $1. This house, which sits literally 20 feet from my house, has been a complete revolving door with new tenants, their guests and probation officers. It completely dumbfounds me that this investor can operate such a house in the city limits and at the same time is not able to legally turn the same house into a homestay or short-term rental that caters to traveling tourists. Who would you prefer living next to you?

This whole situation becomes even more maddening when you live in a neighborhood that has had two multimillion-dollar hotels built that contain hundreds of short-term rental units. Of course, these areas have been zoned differently, even though just separated by one street and thus are granted the ability to be in the short-term rental business while those of us who live in the same neighborhood are not offered the same ability.

Please stop punishing those of us who work so hard and pay double taxes for Asheville and Buncombe. Loosen homestay policies so that they are aligned with the policies of Buncombe County and recovery homes or make sure the county adopts similar homestay policies to align with the city of Asheville. At the bare minimum, city residents ought to be allowed to put sinks, stoves, and any size refrigerator wherever they want in the homestay portion of the house. Plus, full-time residents (deemed by filing a tax return in the city limits) ought to be able to operate three homestay rentals and not be forced to be in town when the houses are rented.

Most importantly, stop spending so much time and energy on policies and issues like these and redirect the same energy to figure out ways to make our local governments more effective and efficient so that we can have more impact on important issues. Combining Asheville and Buncombe County governments into one entity is likely the place to start. Why do we have two governments overseeing the same jurisdiction anyway?

— Ryan Pickens



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8 thoughts on “Letter: Homestay rules penalize city residents

  1. bsummers

    The elimination of the City of Asheville is a favorite wet dream of county Republicans. It’s not gonna happen. Speculating on it as a solution to anything is a waste of time.

    BTW, back in the day, it was expected that if you have a professional stake in an issue you’re submitting a letter on, you’d disclose it. Realtors and property managers like yourself, Mr. Pickens, have a much different set of issues from the average homeowner.

  2. Bugs Bunny

    Wah. Can’t Airbnb it for as much as possible? Rich people problems. Your in town Airbnb rentals have forced numerous hard working city families who need long(er) term leases way outside the city and are forced to clog these roads with that much additional commuting labor force. World’s got bigger problems atm. Te to set some of our individual entitlements to the side, if we are to survive as a whole. And Asheville has lost so much of it’s charm and authenticity from the days of it’s true renaissance during the 1990’s that I don’t know why people are still flocking here except to capitalize on the now largely non-local community. Oh, the irony!

  3. Local

    It also help to realize that local governments in NC cannot regulate or tax property differently based upon if it is rental or owner occupied. So this writer’s concept just lets the “haves” have more and the ones already renting less options for finding a place to live. As far as group homes, well they are protected by federal housing laws so local governments have limited ability to regulate except for mandating separation distances or maximum number of persons.

  4. Shultz!

    Agree w/bsummers above – you should’ve put in a disclaimer that you’re a real estate guy. Would’ve been the forthright thing to do.

    So this is a letter from someone wanting to use housing to satiate their greed and/or shirk real work at the expense of their fellow citizens, and the complaint is that this effort is being stymied by city policies put in place to stop such actions. Seems proof positive the city’s policies are having the intended effect, no?

  5. luther blissett

    “if you live in the city, you pay significantly more taxes than people who live in the county (double taxation)”

    This is a highly misleading definition of “double taxation” and repeating it doesn’t make it any less so. It’s not “double taxation” in the way that tax liabilities can cross state lines depending on your domicile. It’s not even “double taxation” in the sales tax is charged on purchases with post-tax income. If you live in the city, your city taxes cover city services, APD, AFD, city parks & rec, trash collection, etc, while your county taxes cover the sheriff’s department, libraries, county parks, etc. while you have a separate tax liability for your local VFD and the option to pay [checks Buncombe website] $230/year for trash pickup.

    If you want county rules, try Swannanoa or Arden. You’ll notice some differences in what residents are allowed to do on their properties. Also look up “race to the bottom.”

    • luther blissett

      To clarify: if you live in the unincorporated county, you’re liable for ad valorem fire district taxes (“double taxation!”) and either paying Waste Pro $230/year to pick up your trash or hauling it yourself to the transfer station or the landfill. (Or maybe you burn it, as long as nobody’s looking.) We all know the tradeoffs at the boundaries between jurisdictions.

      Still, it’s a neat rhetorical trick to say that we should be directing our energies into other things. Pay no attention, etc.

  6. Jason Williams

    Haute Bourgeois problems. OMG! These scummy halfway houses are cutting into my profits! Your social safety nets are a burden to my capitalist ventures! There are people paying half or more of their monthly salary for rent in Asheville, and a lot of it has to do with people like the letter writer who “work hard” at earning money while neither producing anything tangible, nor bettering the place they live.

  7. Enlightened Enigma

    Asheville is expected to double in size over the next two decades, Harold.

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