Letter writer: Allow and regulate short-term rentals

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Is there a U.S. city of any size with a healthy affordable housing supply near its downtown? It’s misguided math to assume Asheville’s affordable housing issue can be solved by reining in a few hundred homeowners with attached dwelling units or short-term rental houses? What’s really going on in the fervent opposition to STRs?

Consider the “erosion of the fabric of our neighborhoods” argument frequently cited to uphold the ban on STRs. Are we talking about borrowing a cup of stevia, sharing limited parking and trading garden flowers? Let’s stop envisaging the Portlandia version of Asheville neighborhoods.

If you’re lucky and friendly, you might get good neighbors for a few years before you outgrow each other or somebody moves. For real emergencies, 911 is probably [safer] than any neighbor you might call. Even in a home-invasion scenario, where you are about to have a very bad day, you better have either an alarm or a gun, whether or not your friendly neighbors are home or your street is full of empty STRs!

Or maybe “fabric” means potential friends. Did you interview the neighbors before you bought your house? Maybe since the Kenilworth/West Asheville/Montford residents’ profile is primarily white/educated/professional/retired/young families, you felt kindred spirits awaited you? There is veiled racism in this argument of wanting to keep the fabric of our neighborhoods. It’s comfortable to live among your tribe, whether that be of the same race, economic strata, education level, age range, etc. But unless your tribe buys all the houses on your street, you don’t get to pick your neighbors, or how they use their private property.

In my neighborhood, when someone needs help, whoever is home helps out. We’re neighbors with benefits, not obligations. I admit I am bothered by the family owning the house next door, smoking outside all hours of the day, year round. I have second-hand smoke with my coffee, my barbecue, my star gazing. Yet all I can do is be neighborly. If it was a STR, I’d have a smoke-free deck most of the time. Instant life improvement.

If people want to have paying overnight guests, short term or long term, that’s their business,  especially when the impact to neighbors is minimal at best.

Seven houses down from me there are another seven houses filled with people I have never met. They could be wealthy, Wiccan or wheelchair-bound. They’re neighbor strangers, and I respect their privacy. I may wish to tell you I enjoy your garden, but if I never see you, it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment. I live here by choice, in a house I can afford in a city I want to reside in. If everybody on my block moved out or started a STR, I wouldn’t sell my house.

We have dozens of ordinances that protect against noise, trash, unsafe conditions, etc. It’s paranoid to think neighborhoods are going to “hollow out” and become full of empty houses catering to tourists. We’re not New York or San Francisco with off-the-charts housing costs and not enough supply to meet the demand. Times are divisive enough. We don’t need neighbors turning in neighbors because they are jealous of STR income earned, or bothered by an occasional party or if they’re not on the A-list for free eggs from backyard chickens.

The [city’s ADU] task force noted that some STR owners own more than their primary residence, as context for stating that STR income is not always due to financial hardship.  I own a house eight states away that I have rented short term for 17 years. I use it three times a year to see family, and rental income is how I pay my mortgage and maintain family connections. Many people use second homes/STRs for flexibility and to produce income for life’s current and future options and challenges. Their crime? Violating an ordinance that says they can’t let people pay them for accommodations of less than 30 days. Hosting guests is the second oldest profession in the world and an outdated ordinance says you can’t do it here in Asheville. Ludicrous.

Were city inspectors partners in these violations when they gave “green tickets” to help us get our short-term rentals code-compliant? Nobody imagined the city might enforce a ban it had ignored for years and many, like myself, never knew the ban existed. What about selective enforcement? Is the city unaware that in many of the homestay permits issued, a stove is removed prior to the inspection and put back once the permit is granted? Can’t we get beyond this foolishness?

The sharing economy was born 20-plus years after the now-outdated ban was introduced. STRs are legal in the Central Business District, and two blocks over, they’re not. We’re adding 1,000 hotel rooms downtown and telling people four blocks from South Slope they can’t rent their garage apartment on the weekends. We need progressive zoning, not regressive regulations.

What has the city done with the tax revenue being generated by STRs? It’s a lot of money. Is it legal/ethical to receive funds on a practice that is banned by an ordinance? The city is spending money to enforce a ban instead of recognizing a revenue source that can be regulated to benefit a lot of people.

STR owners [whom] I know agree the city should put regulations in place, require permits and insurance, limit the number of them and/or grandfather existing ones, require residency ownership or management, continue to collect taxes, etc. Let’s stop this nonsense and find a solution.

— Asheville resident

Editor’s note: At the letter writer’s request, Xpress is withholding the person’s name so as not to jeopardize the writer’s livelihood and to allow for a fuller discussion of this public policy issue.


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29 thoughts on “Letter writer: Allow and regulate short-term rentals

  1. NFB

    Love the way MX gives the cover an anonymity to people in Asheville engaged in illegal activity. Shall we soon seen letters from pimps and drug dealers given anonymity “so as not to jeopardize the writer’s livelihood and to allow for a fuller discussion of this public policy issue?”

    “Let’s stop this nonsense and find a solution.”

    Any “nonsense “in the issue is the idea that areas zoned RESIDENTIAL should be turned into commercial zones for tourists. Residential areas are for residents. Downtown was long ago turned over the tourists. Let us have areas in Asheville for residents.

    • boatrocker

      Amen, NFB.

      “So as not to jeopardize the writer’s livelihood” what a crock- they should be able to receive hateful, threatening letters, phone calls and emails, the same as the educator who lead workshops not approved by vegans.

      Residential areas for RESIDENTS, and the towers of Mammon downtown for tourists and short term rentals.

      I’m sure this has been given as a reason before as to why STR should not be allowed in residential areas, but try this-
      ever stayed in a hotel far from town and left it a mess? Uh huh.

      “It’s not my problem, someone else will clean up the mess.” Except in this case, it’s the rest of the neighborhood.

      Really now, Mtn X, way to go around the TOE for LTE that you created.

      • Cat

        Those are the “hotel people.” People who rent STRs are usually of a different ilk. They also have a public profile that will keep their behavior in check – as they are publicly reviewed. Hotels don’t have a shaming venue for their past guests. And another thing, just because they are anonymous, doesn’t mean their point isn’t smart and valid. Illogical – comparing to pimps and drug dealers. You want to compare? Maybe you want to post about your impotence or write an article about it – would you post your real name? I am guessing probably not. It’s not something you want to publicize is it? Ok “Mr. Boat rocker” and “Mr. NFB” If that IS indeed your REAL name ;)

        • boatrocker

          Ahhhh, yes, of course- STR ‘ilk’ are somehow a bit higher and mightier than those ‘hotel people’.

          Yup, you convinced me.

          And nobody with a public profile has ever decided to step out of line- just ask anyone with a facebook page or Anthony Wiener.
          In terms of you protesting the Mtn X giving special favor status to LTE writers, like Shakespeare said, methinks (s)he doth protest too much and might actually be ‘in the game’ of STR so to speak.

          • boatrocker

            No “Cat’, I’m saying from your comments you most likely have a pro STR bias for making a quick buck off it.

            But whoa, wait- I take everything I said back because you work in the ‘arrrrrtist population’ and ‘the looocal community’.
            Know what? Me too! but it hasn’t turned me into a smug self righteous raving capitalist.

            Get over yourself, or not, I don’t care.

        • The Real World

          “Hotels don’t have a shaming venue for their past guests.” — not true, actually. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ is a vastly utilized website where people leave reviews of everything travel-related, incl hotels, motels, inns, etc.

          • Cat

            So wait… one comment makes me “doth protesting too much”?? Really. Whatever dude. Yes, I think STR’s SHOULD be legal for local residents, as I am very involved in the artist population and the local community – lived here a long time. I do have a strong opinion about it. But that’s all I am going to say – you seem to hijacked the entire thread, and I am a busy gal. Good luck with your trolling, sir!

    • Austin Hill

      Zoning does not nor has it ever guaranteed the residential character I assume you are promoting. Honestly, I don’t even know what you are talking about. Having one couple stay in an accessory dwelling unit on any given street does not create a “commercial zone for tourists.” That is so inflated, dramatic, and untrue. Careful what you wish for because people who run businesses typically care about what they are creating, unlike some rental property owners who are absent and may not really care what goes on so long as the funds role in.

  2. The Real World

    The letter writer incoherently rambles for the first half then stumbles onto a few good points. My comments:

    Allowing unregulated STR’s can be abused and disruptive. The raised ranch across the street from me probably has 4 bedrooms between 2 levels and a year ago or so, they were renting most or all of them on Airbnb. There was a continually rotating string of many cars parked along the road and new people about. It was too much. They stopped. That sort of thing should not be permitted.

    But, preventing people from renting, on a short-term basis, an on-site apartment, carriage house, etc when the owner is present and has off-street parking? That would be wrong and archaic. Homestays exist throughout the Western world and have since long before Airbnb ever came about. I’ve stayed in them in Italy, England, Ireland and New Zealand and it’s all managed very well, is part of the fabric of those places and provides for a unique ability for travelers to connect to locals.

    This can be managed and reasonable compromises made so that it largely just blends in with regular life the way it does currently with large homes here that have rented apartments within them. There are LOTS of those.

    • boatrocker

      “a unique ability for travelers to connect to locals”- it’s your lie, tell it any way you like it.

      Yeah, obnoxious non tipping tourists from Charlotte who stay in a STR just long enough to do a vomit soaked brewery crawl or see the Christmas Jam really want to get to know the salt of the earth from this town.
      Maybe they’ll even converse with the buskers too!

      Funny how all the sudden the locals according to you are noble yeoman instead of dirty smelly hippies who hate ‘Murica.

      Italy, England, Ireland and New Zealand also have a very different set of values about being, you know, nice to others
      and do not consider private property to be more important than a sane society.

      If I had a quarter for your every double standard, I’d be rich.

      • The Real World

        A- You almost never have the slightest clue what you’re talking about ….. B – Grow up…… C- Find a friend……..D – go t-r-o-l-l somewhere else

        • boatrocker

          Heaven forbid anyone here disagrees with your worldview- cue your arsehurt responses.

          Again, in case you didn’t understand-
          No to STR rentals in residential areas. Want your ‘local flavor’? Stay downtown. That’s why outtatown developers built a huge glut of overpriced hotels. So you can feel like a king or queen while gazing down at all us plebes who actually have to work here.

          If you merely stay in a residential neighborhood STR and spend all your money and time downtown, that truly screams hypocritical obnoxious jerky non tipping tourist. If need a nice residential house to lay your head down in, why did you leave your hometown in the first place?

          But I suppose the almighty tourist $ always trumps the desires of locals.

          • The Real World

            A- You almost never have the slightest clue what you’re talking about B – Your reading comprehension is consistently lacking (part of the reason for A)

  3. Austin Hill

    City Council is misguided and hypocritical. They will subsidize a developer and amend zoning to allow him to put a mini-development on my street, and then claim that it is my apartment with a tourist in it that is going to fundamentally change the character of my neighborhood. And all the Beaver Cleaver proponents don’t seem to be aware of how transient Asheville has become. And the affordable housing people need to just mind their own business and focus on mixed use development and quit punishing people who want to live here and thrive and support the community by hiring landscapers, handymen, contractors, and whoever else may benefit by working for someone improving their property and livelihood.

    • Lulz

      LOL, are ya waking up to the reality that any entity that bans smokin in bars and enforces it via snitching is the same one that will take away YOUR private property rights? And will prosecute you with, and wait, via your neighbors snitching you out? Has it dawned on you that the leftist are little totalitarian tyrants that need to be kicked to the curb? And represent the complete opposite of real freedom? And pit neighbor against neighbor? I just hope that you guys that are finally feeling it vote accordingly. Especially after we get hit for more taxes.

      • luther blissett

        You’re running for office, then? The “Lung Cancer Freedom Party” is catchy, and you can have that one for free.

      • Alan Ditmore

        In addition, any dollar spent enforcing this stuff is a dollar not spent on affordable housing! The same goes for city police spending and planning dept spending.

  4. Deplorable Infidel

    Face it folks…we live in, probably, the most pathetically run ‘city’ there is . Decades of democrackkk NON leadership and creation of the most public housing per capita in NC, segregating all the poor people, has decimated this place, and will continue to do so. Oh sure the wealthy areas thrive but are oblivious to the problems elsewhere in this ‘city’. Still, city council REFUSES to oversee nor demand accountability from the Housing Authority of AVL who now wants to create more ‘new’ ghetto for the future. Do they EVER seek to phase this out ? NO they don’t because their salaries to RUN this gravy train are enormous! Public housing is Asheville’s BIGGEST problem that no one talks about because council allows them to operate as their own independent authority as bestowed upon us in 1940.

    Did you know that there are ordinances ‘against’ trash ? who knew ? does the housing authority know this ?

  5. STR Myths

    If the City is concerned with the affordable housing crisis, then why has it sat on a specifically designated affordable unit at Skyloft for two years? Why has it sat empty and not been sold, helping offset the 5% occupancy rate (or 1% depending on which report you read).

    If the City is concerned with the affordable housing crisis, then why has it approved some properties to operate as valid short term rentals thereby removing housing stock and amplifying the crisis? These are not units in the central business district where anything goes, these are units in residential areas like Kenilworth.

    Something doesn’t add up…

    • STRs are NOT “removed from the housing stock” they remain housing, as do hotel rooms. The crisis is a supply crisis which can ONLY be solved by repealing all unit density and height limits and building millions of trump towers all over Asheville, making nearby housing affordable as in Atlantic City.

  6. luther blissett

    “We’re not New York or San Francisco with off-the-charts housing costs and not enough supply to meet the demand.”

    That straw man’s getting a beating. From the Bowen report: “The most significant housing issue within the county, as indicated by respondents, was rent burdened/affordability, followed by limited availability, substandard housing, and lack of public transportation.”

    The LTE is just a set of disjointed, verbose attempts that would be more succinctly stated as “screw you, I got mine.” (e.g. “to produce income for life’s current and future options and challenges” is a wordy way of saying “to cash in”.) But since the letter-writer has no intention of providing short-term rentals other than to undercut hotel pricing for tourists, maybe it’s time to call their bluff and regulate the heck out of ’em. ADA compliance, random inspections, the works. And let’s see if the city’s AirBnB landlords try to establish a competitive advantage by snitching on one another. Let the party begin.

  7. Alan Ditmore

    STRs are a diversionary scapegoat! the affordable housing crisis is a supply crisis that can only be solved by unlimited density, mass produced, highrise, stackable mobile homes in Montford and Kenilworth! and by using city minimum wage to drive business into the suburbs to make room for city housing where the jobs used to be.

  8. Alan Ditmore

    Neighborhoods are evil and so is their character, which is murderously designed to cause homelessness. The threat to affordability is ZONING, not STRs. I hope Trump Tower Montford makes the neighboring houses affordable like in Atlantic City.

  9. STRs are a diversionary scapegoat! the affordable housing crisis is a supply crisis that can only be solved by unlimited density, mass produced, highrise, stackable mobile homes in Montford and Kenilworth! and by using city minimum wage to drive business into the suburbs to make room for city housing where the jobs used to be.
    Neighborhoods are evil and so is their character, which is murderously designed to cause homelessness. The threat to affordability is ZONING, not STRs. I hope Trump Tower Montford makes the neighboring houses affordable like in Atlantic City.

  10. Deplorable Infidel

    ROFLMAO ! ! ! Hey Alan, I thought Atlantic City mostly went broke from ‘gambling’…Trump lost his a** there , right ?

    • Alan Ditmore

      Which made housing there far less expensive. Detroit has affordable housing too, if you can heat it. Gadsden AL has affordable housing. Asheville needs to follow their example and bankruptcy seems to help.

  11. Deplorable Infidel

    Decades of do nothing incompetent democrackkk non leaders in Asheville is the very reason for all the infrastructure problems now, especially all the sinkholes…and THEY are the SEGREGATIONISTS who allowed all the unnecessary public housing blight on this resort city.

  12. Cecil Bothwell

    One element in this thread I find to be hilarious is the complaint about mountainx permitting an anonymous comment — by an anonymous commenter. I never give any credence to those who demand anonymity without arguable cause, and most particularly if they are simply griping or sniping or calling names.

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