Hard to make a living and get decent housing
I lived there from 2000-2013. It's very hard to make a living wage and afford a rental much less a house. Since the job market is dominated by the service industry, the pay is not only low, but it's also seasonal (think tips if you're a server). Couple that with the fact that home prices have been skyrocketing for years and are out of reach for many residents due to at least two factors: 1) wealthier people from the North or Florida move there and buy homes at peak prices (because to them peak prices in Asheville are cheap) and/or 2) people have moved there as well-paid remote workers for their out-of-state/town employer. As expected the cost of rent followed suit. Many people need to have roommates to afford their apartment, and let's face it — if you're well out of college, it stinks having roommates. Or, people end up renting dumps, and there are plenty of those. Two-income households could swing a house purchase, but if they had kids or planned to, their expenses would be through the roof.
When my salary finally broke $40k c. 2010, it was a big deal. The bookkeeper at my company, who was also a friend, said half jokingly, "I don't think they realize what they're paying you." I never thought I'd ever hit that benchmark (can you believe I called $40k a benchmark?) when I was living in Asheville. That's how hard it is to achieve that. Sure, that was nine years ago, but I've visited a few times since then. Things didn't seem to change except for the increase in traffic and more hotels. Over the last few years I'd occasionally look at Asheville job listings on Craig's List for curiosity's sake. It appeared to be even worse than when I was there. No full-time employment offers unless you're a truck driver. Mostly part time or contract employment, and not in industries that pay well.
Previously I had two part-time non-profit jobs. It ended up being terrible because I didn't earn benefits, and one of those jobs was full time by nature. I was so stressed trying to get eight hours of work done in four.
It really bothered me that so many people there would tell me Asheville is perfect, when I knew people struggling to get by. There's a big gap between the haves and have-nots. Those snow-capped mountains don't look so great when you can't pay your heating bill in February. Many people there are very delusional, in denial, or part of the wealthy minority that doesn't give a f---.
When I was there, I learned that the drug scene was quite rampant, but most people are unaware of this. My bookkeeper friend's daughter hangs with some chemical friendly people, and the last year I was there five of her friends overdosed on one thing or another.
There also isn't any diversity no matter what someone tells you. It's 70% white and has been for a long time. The only so-called diversity is within the white demographic: retirees, hippies, hipsters, skater kids.
If you like the Portland-esque scene, make at least $50k (better make that $60k for comfort), have job security, or you're wealthily retired, you could consider living here. You'd also have to be cool with lots of traffic and temperatures in the teens right after Halloween. (That was my experience the last 2-3 years I lived there. Not sure about now.) You also have to be cool with living in a liberal echo chamber. And if you happen to tell people you occasionally eat at McDonald's, shop at Walmart, or drive an SUV, be prepared to be crucified.
F | Black Mountain, NC