Letter writer: Special interests, not homeowners, are winning in short-term rental ban

Graphic by Lori Deaton

My wife, two daughters and I purchased our home in 2012. It’s a three-bedroom in St. Dunstan’s (part of Kenilworth). It would make a great vacation rental, as it’s close to Biltmore, shops and dining. We’d love the option to rent our place during peak weekends to help pay our mortgage. Asheville has outlawed this and proposed $500 fines for violations for short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.

I read about how this activity destroys charm and character of neighborhoods, causes nuisance and increases rental prices. First, does this really cause such a nuisance when done in such a limited fashion? If yes, can we target specific behaviors such as fines for noise or parking violations rather than overly generalize? How are long-term rentals impacted?

Clearly, my family and I would be living in our home the majority of the time and would not be interested in renting beyond a weekend here or there. I hear arguments citing “big business” of Airbnb. What about our major hotel expansions and the increased hotel occupancy taxes, which do not go toward improvements in roads or other infrastructure and instead route millions to advertising to attract more tourists?

There are special interests winning here, just not local homeowners. We are not all greedy absentee landlords. Why vilify us and pit us against renters? We, too, would like to benefit from the increase in tourism, but unlike hotels, our dollars would stay local. We could proceed in a careful way that is considerate to our neighbors.

Knee-jerk legislation like the Airbnb ban in residential neighborhoods only helps the big hotel business and my Council should represent me, not Marriott.

— Nowell Henry

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6 thoughts on “Letter writer: Special interests, not homeowners, are winning in short-term rental ban

  1. NFB

    “my Council should represent me, not Marriott.”

    But it isn’t “your” Council it is OUR Council, and many Asheville residents are being hurt by the disregard some of our neighbors are having with short term rentals. We are hurt by having our residential neighborhoods turned into hotel and business districts when these areas were not intended to be such. We are hurt by escalating housing costs and the use of houses meant to be residences being used for tourists means fewer homes for residents and this is a factor in these rising costs.

    City Council did NOT make short term rentals illegal. Short term rentals have been illegal in Asheville for a long time. Council simply determined that the fines for this violation of the law was not enough to discourage the blatant disregard for this law and thus increased those fines. This law was in place when you bought your house in 2012. If you did not do your research when you bought your house you have only yourself to blame. If you wanted to run a bed and breakfast you should have bought a house that was zoned for such a purpose.

    Special interests took a hit with Council’s actions. Such actions will discourage outside interests from buying up multiple houses in residential areas for the purposes of making money off of Asheville with little interest in the city’s overall well being. Some who spoke at the Council meeting mentioned them and neighbors being approached by such interests with an interest in buying their houses for this purpose.

    Airbnb is a company valued at over 25 BILLION dollars. That makes them a special interest and I thank OUR City Council for standing up to that special interest despite the heavy lobbying Aribnb did.

    • WAVLer

      I’m sympathetic to the letter writer and commenters arguments. Airbnb may be valued at $25 billion – but it’s not the entity buying property in Asheville. It sounds like this homeowner is just trying to deal with his own housing affordability struggle by making some extra money by clearing out a few weekends a year, which isn’t displacing any long term renters. Heck he may just want to rent his place while he goes on vacation. Surely there is a line to be drawn that puts investor-purchased permanent STR’s on one side and owner occupied occasional room and house-lets on the other.

    • EagleFlight

      Who would ever want transients next door to the one place that is supposed to be safe and enjoy the peace of your own home? Neighborhoods are for neighbors, not short term vacation rentals of unknown people who can’t afford a hotel room?

      Answer: No one.

  2. David Bailey

    Just wondering, which “residential neighborhoods [have been} turned into hotel and business districts.”? (Let me know)
    I realize that housing costs are riding exponentially, but has anyone actually proven that “escalating housing costs and the use of houses meant to be residences being used for tourists … is a factor in these rising costs.”? (Experts differ, and many cite a host of other factors with far more of an impact on housing issues in Asheville).
    And blaming AirBnB for the (alleged) problem, when they alone among the internet-based vacation agents, have been working with the City to collect and forward sales and occupancy taxes from vacationers, is just not fair.
    Current zoning laws were enacted long before the “internet of everything” changed the way in which we procure a cab, look up an address, do our banking or find a vacation accommodation. Cities that are able to recognize that we are now in the third millennium have developed reasonable means to protect neighborhoods, encourage entrepeneurship and foster tourism with creative legislation. Surely Asheville (which was founded and built on tourism) can figure out a way to meet these goals. Holding property owners accountable for their properties is the first step in this process. Caving in to the big hotel industry, which is already oversaturating the City with an excessive number of expensive hotel rooms, is not the answer.

    • And blaming AirBnB for the (alleged) problem, when they alone among the internet-based vacation agents, have been working with the City to collect and forward sales and occupancy taxes from vacationers, is just not fair.

      Do you call operating illegally for many years “working with the city”. For years, this company has ignored the existing laws in every city that they operate in that has one. Their founder actually said that “There are no laws written for micro entrepreneurs”, knowing exactly what the law is in every city that that have listings in. The NY state Attorney General had this response. “Innovation is not a defense for breaking the law”.

      Why should they be rewarded for this? No other business or individual would be?

      It is a joke to expect others to follow the law? To expect consequences for those who don’t? I guess I’m old fashioned.

  3. OneWhoKnows

    It is still fine to rent rooms within your home IF you are staying there, which is what many do.

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