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Buncombe County Planning Board to vote Monday on restrictions for new short-term rentals

A photo from an Airbnb listing in Buncombe County.
A photo from an Airbnb listing in Buncombe County.

The Buncombe County Planning Board will hold a much-anticipated vote Monday night on regulations for new short-term rentals, such as those found on websites like Airbnb and VRBO.

If the board votes in favor of the regulations, the final decision will be up to the Buncombe County Commission, which would take up the issue at a later date.

The push for restrictions on new short-term rentals comes as the county faces a shortage of affordable housing. Supporters of the proposed regulations say they could help address the housing crisis by making more properties available for long-term rental. Opponents argue that restricting short-term rentals will harm the economy and take away a key source of income for homeowners.

There were 5,268 short-term rentals in Buncombe County in 2022, accounting for about 4.5% of the county’s total housing stock, according to AirDNA data provided by the planning board.

The draft regulations would apply only to unincorporated parts of Buncombe County. The City of Asheville and other municipalities have their own regulations and would not be affected.

The restrictions would apply only to newly-created short-term rentals; existing ones would be grandfathered in, although owners would have to apply for a zoning permit and renew it every two years.

The planning board revised the draft regulation language over the past few months as members of the public have weighed in online and during several in-person listening sessions, where the discussion became heated at times.

The version that will be up for a vote Monday night would limit new short-term rentals to certain districts; set limits on the total permitted square footage; prohibit short-term rentals in manufactured home parks and affordable housing developments; and create requirements around waste disposal, parking and signage.

In recent months, opponents of the proposed regulations have established a website, “No Ban for Buncombe,” and launched an online media campaign.

At their most recent meeting on April 1, planning board members shared their thoughts on the proposal in the wake of all the recent public comments. Several said that while the regulations may not be perfect, it is important for the county to take some action to address the housing crisis.

Directly ahead of Monday night’s vote, members of the public will be able to voice their opinions at the final listening session on the topic starting at 5:30 p.m. The session will take place at the Ferguson Auditorium at A-B Tech and will be streamed online.

Felicia Sonmez is a reporter covering growth and development for Blue Ridge Public Radio.