As Buncombe holds back on short-term rental regulations, Weaverville is moving forward

Two months ago, Buncombe County decided to postpone a vote on new short-term rental regulations, but the city of Weaverville is pressing ahead with the issue.

Last week, in a 3-2 vote, the Weaverville Planning Board recommended that the City Council adopt restrictions on new short-term rentals made through websites such as Airbnb and VRBO. The Weaverville City Council has not yet set a date for the vote, but opponents plan to attend the June 24 council meeting to voice their opposition.

The latest changes come as Weaverville planners, along with officials from other parts of Buncombe County, seek to address housing availability and affordability amid skyrocketing growth and rising costs in the region.

In its June 6 recommendation to the City Council, the Weaverville Planning Board noted that it has been working on the issue for more than a year. Reference was made to a report on the impact of short-term rentals prepared by the Land of Sky Regional Council – the planning and development organization for Buncombe, Madison, Henderson and Transylvania counties – prepared after several outreach sessions with Weaverville residents.

“The Planning Board has discussed this complex topic in at least eight of its meetings since a joint meeting with the City Council on this matter on March 21, 2023, and has devoted significant time outside of these meetings to better understand these issues,” the board wrote in its recommendation to the City Council.

“Based on information gathered during Planning Board input sessions and discussions on April 2 and May 7, staff developed a set of draft regulations.”

As of November 2023, there were 2,125 housing units in Weaverville, according to a report from the Land of Sky Regional Council. Eighty-five of them are open apartments for short-term rental, which constitutes approximately 4% of the city’s housing stock.

Overall, short-term rentals accounted for approximately 4.5% of the total housing stock in 2022, according to AirDNA data provided by the Buncombe County Planning Board.

The Land of Sky Regional Council also noted in its report that average home values ​​in Weaverville increased 64% from 2017 to 2022 compared to 47% nationwide.

Supporters of restrictions on short-term rentals argued that the regulations protect the supply of affordable housing and preserve the character of neighborhoods. Opponents argued that short-term rentals were good for the local economy and that there was insufficient data to show that the properties had any significant impact on the supply of affordable housing.

The Buncombe County Planning Board has been grappling with this issue for months. In April, he slammed on the brakes, arguing that more time and community input were needed before a final vote could be taken.

Draft regulations recommended by the Weaverville Planning Board would limit new short-term rentals to certain neighborhoods. Similar to the Buncombe County proposal, existing short-term rental agreements will be accepted.

Buncombe County’s proposal would only apply to unincorporated parts of the county, so municipalities like Weaverville would not be affected.

In making its recommendation, the Weaverville Planning Board also noted nearly a dozen concerns expressed by board members.

The concern is that the number of short-term rentals in the city may not be enough to introduce new regulations. Others cited potential legal risks, the need for adequate enforcement resources and the possible benefits of waiting for district leaders to introduce new regulations.

Chip Craig, president of the Short-Term Rental Alliance, which opposes the regulations, said Tuesday that members of his group are mobilizing to speak out against the draft regulations for Weaverville, just as they did on the proposed restrictions in Buncombe County.

“We are not against regulations; there are some bad apples that are causing too many people in their homes or not following the safety rules.… There are some regulations that I think would help the industry,” Craig, who owns Graybeard Realty, told BPR in an interview. “But there is no real data or facts to show that the ban will do anything.”

The Land of Sky Regional Council discussed this issue in detail in its Weaverville report. It noted that the “bigger issue” may be the need for more housing supply in the city, which faces “challenges in increasing supply, such as lack of available land due to mountainous terrain and sufficient water supply.”

“It is unclear what impact short-term rentals have on affordability, but a major factor affecting housing affordability in Weaverville may be availability,” the report said.