Last year, when Asheville City Council patched up the current budget’s $5.3 million hole, one tightened belt was the city’s annual contribution to the Housing Trust Fund, which is used to give developers low-interest loans on construction of affordable housing. As part of its cost-saving measures, Council designated only half of what it usually contributes to the fund, and as a result of that and a changing real estate market, city staff is recommending a 21-point remodeling of the fund. Most notable is a higher priority placed on rental housing, which reflects that fewer people are setting out to buy homes.
Also on the agenda is a 90-day extension of funding for URTV (newly endowed with a name The WNC Community Media Center). The public access channel operates using funds from cable bills that is then allocated by the city and county. But concerns about the operation of the channel has led Council to proceed with caution, including the 90-day partial extension rather than a full year commitment. City staff is also recommending that Council phase out its appointment of two members to the channel’s board, which it says will allow the city to better appraise the board’s performance on the same terms it appraises outside contractors.
But the big event may be the discussion of City Council invocations. Currently, meetings begin with an invocation, with each Council member taking a turn offering a prayer or moment of silence. There is no supporting documentation for this item on the agenda, but with some new Council members at the table, this may be an indication that some want to see the invocation done away with or the method of delivery changed. In December, Buncombe County Commissioners held a closed-session meeting to discuss potential lawsuits arising from public prayer in meetings, but decided later to continue the practice.
Asheville City Council meets on the second floor of City Hall at 5 p.m. Click here for the complete agenda.
— Brian Postelle, staff writer