With a Consumer Advocacy Grant from the REALTOR® Party, this board serving three counties in western North Carolina is educating consumers on the key findings from recent studies that demonstrate not only the economic benefit of STRs within a community, but also that STRs are not to blame for housing shortages and affordability issues.
As short-term rentals become an increasingly established feature of the accommodations market, critics attempt to blame them, in part, for the shortages of affordable housing being felt nationwide. In Buncombe County, in the scenic mountains of western North Carolina, studies showed that not only was this not the case, but that short term rentals made a significant contribution to the local economy. To bring this information to the public, the Land of the Sky Association of REALTORS® mounted an educational campaign with support from a REALTOR® Party Consumer Advocacy Grant.
The 2,000-member association had commissioned joint studies of short-term rentals in Asheville and surrounding Buncombe County last summer, with funding by an Issues Mobilization Grant from the North Carolina Association of REALTORS®. “As a REALTOR® organization, we are fundamentally concerned with protecting private property rights, including the right to gain income from one’s property,” explains Matthew Allen, the association’s Director of Professional Development. “So, in order to dispel the myths about short term rentals,” he notes, “we wanted to get real data to illustrate the extent to which these rentals actually affect their communities’ housing supply and economies.”
The studies revealed that in a single year, direct spending from short-term rental guests created over $423.6 million in economic activity and nearly 18,000 jobs in the county; tax revenue generated by this spending also supported the local and state governments. The study also determined that short-term rentals account for less than 3% of the county’s total housing stock and affect neither housing prices nor inventory levels. Many of the rental properties are larger and more expensive vacation homes, which would not be considered affordable housing or ‘missing middle’ stock.
With this information in hand, the REALTORS® launched a public-facing campaign featuring an infographic brochure, a website with a link to the 30-page study, and a collection of short-term rental stories about how the properties have affected the livelihoods of various locals. Says Allen, “We were especially interested in representing the overwhelming numbers of responsible property owners and managers, to counteract the inevitable anecdotes of the bad party house.” In November 2021, the first meeting of a local STR coalition was convened, mobilized by the REALTORS®’ project. The turn-out was great, reports Allen, and in addition to owners and managers, included many other people involved in the industry’s extensive ripple-effect, like housekeepers and landscapers. “Having these people in place who are concerned and paying attention will be an important asset if and when we have to combat legislation attempting to curb short term rentals,” he says, noting that while the effort has been about protecting fundamental private property rights, the association is also looking out for its REALTOR® members who are property managers or working in the rental space.
While short-term rentals are not causing the region’s affordable housing crunch, the Land of the Sky Association of REALTORS® is still working hard to find strategies and solutions. It recently used a Housing Opportunity Grant from the REALTOR® Party, for example, to give a speaking platform to the executive director of the local community land trust; Allen is also actively sharing content from NAR’s On Common Ground magazine with housing stakeholders in the community.
According to Allen, “Our efforts have been enhanced and amplified by grants from several different REALTOR® Party programs, and across the board, the application process is incredibly user-friendly: the team member at the other end of the phone has always been especially helpful about answering questions as I put together applications, so I know I’m on the right track,” he says. “It really feels like they want us to succeed!”
To learn more about how the Land of the Sky Association of REALTORS® is taking pro-active steps to protect the region’s short-term rentals as a basic private property right, and address the affordable housing shortage, contact Matthew Allen, Director of Professional Development, at email@example.com or 828.333.5840.