Housing Regulatory Study Completed for High Country Region 

Last Updated on April 27, 2023 10:59 am

 Boone, NC (April 12, 2023): A Housing Regulatory Study has been completed for the High Country region (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, and Watauga) by Bowen National Research. The study was requested by the High Country Association of REALTORS® and funded by a grant from the National Association of REALTORS®. 

The study is a follow-up to the 2022 Housing Needs Assessment also conducted by Bowen National Research, which was supported by the High Country Homebuilders Association, the Town of Boone, the Blue Ridge Business Development Center in Alleghany, Watauga County government, Ashe County government, Avery county government, and the Village Foundation of Blowing Rock. The objective of adding a regulatory study was to provide an overview of regulations including zoning, building codes, and permitting fees in order to better understand policies in the region and advocate for solutions that meet the region’s current and future housing needs. 

The 2022 assessment found that an estimated 6,448 renter households and 5,524 owner households in the region were cost burdened, paying more than 30 percent of income on housing costs. 

Additional findings: the median sale price of homes increased by $119,000 between 2018 and 2021, nearly three out of four for-sale homes are priced above $300,000, and the median list price in the overall region of $475,000. According to Bowen “only 6.8 percent of households in the region have the income to buy a median-priced home.” Bowen projected a housing gap of 5,177 rental housing units and 6,349 for-sale housing units in the region over the next five years. 

“It’s no secret that housing affordability and availability are big issues in the High Country,” said Michael Cooper, a government affairs director for NC REALTORS® who works with the High Country Association. “We hope to support efforts to address those issues by providing a breakdown of regulations, fees, and the permitting process. Part of the solution is increasing the housing supply and increasing density in some communities. This study will help us compare local policies to other areas with a goal of identifying what works best for the High Country.” 

The 91-page Housing Regulatory Study can be found on the website of the High Country Association of REALTORS® ( on the resources page. 

Key findings include that most communities with zoning ordinances have front lot setback requirements of 20 to 40 feet and maximum building height limits around 35 feet within their residential zoning districts. According to Bowen, “it does appear that several communities have zoning in place that favors low-density and single-family residential development. Such zoning impacts the type of housing that is ultimately built, making higher density projects (e.g., multifamily apartments or condominiums) less likely in some communities.” 

Towns in the High Country were designed and zoned for a time prior to the growth and interest being experienced now. That requires an update of local policies. “The key is to strike a balance between preserving the character and charm of the High Country and keeping the region affordable for the families who live and work here,” said Cooper. “There is not a simple fix to housing. But we can start by doing little things like making it easier to have duplexes and accessory dwelling units and by increasing density where feasible. This study will help policymakers determine those answers.” 

“The High Country is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family and we hope to pass that quality of life on to the next generation by making sure that housing is available,” said Emily Bish, President of the High Country Association of REALTORS®. “This study is a way of contributing to the conversation and we encourage others to join us in moving the issue forward. We thank the National Association of REALTORS® for the grant and Bowen National Research for their work.” 

The High Country Association of REALTORS® proudly serves members and homeowners in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga. Since 1971 HCAR has represented Realtors® who are providing real estate services and advocating for our shared quality of life. 

Bowen National Research is an Ohio-based real estate research and analytics firm that conducts work in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The firm studies a variety of development opportunities including housing, retail and office space, as well as broader housing needs assessments of cities, counties, regions and states. The firm is an active member of the National Council of Housing Market Analysts 

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