Putting numbers to Asheville’s housing crunch

It’s commonly said that housing’s hard to find in Asheville. Numbers from the U.S. Census and elsewhere shine a light on exactly how hard.

How much of their paychecks do Ashevilleans spend on rent?

There are 16,700 renter households in the city of Asheville. Of those, almost half — 7,957 — pay 30 percent or more of their monthly income in rent. Those are what the census qualifies as cost-burdened households, ones where the amount spent on rent can make it difficult to have enough left over to deal with other needs.

The same document from the census bureau notes that “housing expenditures that exceed 30 percent of household income have historically been viewed as an indicator of a housing affordability problem.”

For over a third of Asheville’s renting households — 6,362 — the problem is even more acute: they spend over 35 percent of their monthly income on rent.

What is affordable housing, anyway?

Affordable housing is bandied about as a term, especially when a developer is applying for a rezoning, or Asheville City Council is considering incentives for a particular project. But in firm numbers, what does affordability mean?

While there’s plenty of debate over what rent is actually affordable, when city government decides if housing is affordable, here’s the maximum rents it uses:

Efficiency/studio – $462
One-bedroom – $661
Two-bedroom – $705
Three-bedroom – $961
Four-bedroom – $1147

Here’s what the federal government qualifies as “fair-market” rents for basic apartments Asheville and Buncombe County. 

Efficiency – $462
One-bedroom – $655
Two-bedroom – $777
Three-bedroom – $977
Four-bedroom – $1293

According to the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, the average rental for 2 bedroom, 1-2 bath, unfurnished, 950-sq. ft. apartment is $865. The city’s own housing analysis (albeit from 2008), found that “most rents in Asheville are higher than fair market rents.”

Asheville is a low-density city

Despite Ashevile’s dense downtown and successive city governments pushing for increased density, the city remains relatively low density. According to figures from the state Office of State Budget and Management, Asheville ranks 10th in population, but 18th in density.

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