BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — Buncombe County leaders are continuing to discuss tightening short term rental (STR) regulations in unincorporated areas of the county.
The Buncombe County Planning Board had a work session Monday, Feb. 5, and had county staff present information tied to questions focusing on if STR’s are eating into affordable housing inventory. Rafael Baptista, Buncombe County director of strategy and innovation shared some basic data on what he and his staff know of the inventory.
“We looked at every sale transaction of real estate property last year in Buncombe County,” Baptista told board members. “Every day, twice a day, AirDNA releases a list of every house for sale in Buncombe County that they believe was a short term rental in the last year. So I pulled the list yesterday. There are about 262 homes on that list — 36 of them sold for over $800,000.”
Staff are now looking at the values of the remaining homes and asking the question leaders want answered, which is whether homes rented for short-term are depleting housing inventory for working families seeking affordable housing.
Baptista told the Planning Board members that the median sale price in 2023 in Buncombe County for a three-bedroom home was $499,000.
Nate Pennington, Buncombe County’s planning director, said there are studies that show conflicting information whether STRs have any significant impact on housing inventory. Staff stated an estimate that 3.5%-5% of all housing units in Buncombe County are STRs. The estimate is there are around 5,000 STRs in the county. Staff members were asked to continue to analyze rental properties and their sale values.
Leaders are considering a cap on the square-footage for STRs. Currently a 9,000-square-foot home can be rented short term in the county. One consideration was the possibility of dropping the max to 4,000-square-feet.
Pennington, who did the majority of the presenting on Monday, said complaints have been raised about rentals to big groups, and disturbance issues to neighbors. During his presentation, Pennington said there are people renting space in cars, RVs, tents, and yurts.
Another issue, he brought up, is some property owners allowing too many people to stay in a unit not meant for large groups. He said that has been impacting septic systems of older units.
Discussions also included possibly protecting certain neighborhoods such as the Emma neighborhood and mobile home parks. At a recent public meeting residents in Emma indicated they hoped the county would protect their affordable housing which could come at odds with an open market for short term rentals.
Another topic briefly discussed was the possibility of banning STR’s in condos and attached townhomes where neighbors live feet away in units. Venessa Zadeh has two STRs in a barn she converted three years ago. She calls her Airbnb listings the Barn at Songbird Meadow.
“I’m not really concerned because I did everything legally,” said Zadeh. “I got it permitted when it got built out and I’ve also done in another state, so I feel like it will be fine. But there are a couple of issues that came up. I was concerned about the distance between units because I have two units.”
County officials may consider only allowing one unit per structure. Zadeh has two studios with kitchenettes.
“But I have already been considering turning it into one unit.” Zadeh said she created it so that her family would always have a comfortable place to stay on her property. “I came from Portland, Oregon and the same thing happened there, there was a lot of talk about the same thing, but the city ended up working with Airbnb and even had classes for people to go to get on board, learn about it and get their permits.”
The planning board will have another work session Feb. 19, and another public listening session where the board will encourage people to email in what they wish to bring up.
Proposed changes to regulations include:
- Creating special requirement standards for short-term rentals
- Requiring a minimum rental period of two nights every 180 days to maintain status as a grandfathered use for non-conforming short-term rentals that are pre-existing
- Prohibiting short-term rentals in manufactured home parks
- Prohibiting short-term rentals in developments that receive a County incentive such as a density bonus
The Planning Board consists of nine members appointed by county commissioners who give recommendations on land use and regulation changes. At its Dec. 5 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners heard options on a conversion program that would provide incentives to property owners who moved properties from short-term to long-term rentals.