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Compromise among Asheville City Council members could allow for more short-term rentals

It's no surprise local Airbnb sales soared last year.

What's telling is the fact that Asheville pulled in more money than anywhere else in North Carolina, and it was not even close.

Asheville's Airbnb numbers were more than 13 million in 2016, compared with 4.5 million in Charlotte and 2.4 million in Raleigh.

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Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell said the latest stats are a significant barometer.

"I think it's really revealing that Airbnb renters have that big an impact on our local economy," he said.

Bothwell said, for local property owners, it's a badly-needed slice of the tourism economy.

"And it really is a way for a lot of people to have more affordable housing for themselves," he said. "Many haven't recovered from the Great Recession."

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Stephanie Brown, of the Tourism Development Authority, said Buncombe County's total short-term rentals added up to 19 million. That's 7 percent of the county's lodging sales.

"We think the economic impact of visitation is attributable to the appeal of the destination as a whole and the power of the tourism promotion that's funded with the occupancy tax," she said.

"Most of the people that I've talked to who are doing Airbnb or short-term rentals are individuals, families, sometimes single parents," Bothwell said. "And they are getting a piece of the tourist economy that way."

Bothwell expects changes soon in Asheville that will open the market further. He thinks five council members are willing to permit short-term rentals that are "accessory dwelling units." Basement or attic apartments, for example.

"That seems to be a compromise the mayor is interested in making," he said. "She calls it threading the needle."

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