Letter writer: We need fresh policies for affordable housing

Write to Mountain Xpress
Graphic by Lori Deaton

With one of the proposed city bonds dedicated to affordable housing, it is time to ask whether the city’s approach to our affordable housing crisis is the right way forward. Watching the current policy in action suggests that it may not be.

In the first place, this is a national problem. Continuing a one-note policy of simply building affordable housing will fail. Even if we were to magically eliminate the 2014 deficit of 5,000 homes, the crisis would remain as more people, driven by worse conditions elsewhere, migrate to Asheville.

But most importantly, we have a shortage of affordable housing because people living and working in Asheville aren’t paid enough to afford housing. It’s that simple. Businesses that do not pay living wages — you know who you are — helped to create the crisis and choose, every payday, to sustain it.

Faced with a crisis created by multiple problems outside our control, we must craft a multipronged response.

We need to look to unconventional project organization and financing to ensure that significant numbers of affordable housing units actually get built —recent experience shows that property speculators are simply not going to deliver what is needed.

We need to stop passively accepting the role of tourist town. We need far more than a four-word reference to “industries of the mind” in city Vision documents. We need an aggressive search for businesses that can prosper here while paying not a living wage, but two and three times as much. And those jobs will require major changes in what we teach our children so that they can succeed.

Affordable housing is a problem for all of us, not just Council and city staff, the Chamber [of Commerce], the schools and the colleges. Our existing affordable housing policy or any variation on it is bound to fail and waste borrowed money. It’s time to roll up our sleeves.

— Geoff Kemmish

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21 thoughts on “Letter writer: We need fresh policies for affordable housing

  1. boatrocker

    Pre emptive post-

    I agree with most of what your letter has to say, but you do realize the alt.right responds to those scary words “affordable housing” by:

    -making into an issue about race, aka those awful people of color according to a white supremacist website they glean their ‘facts’ from
    -Standing up for over development, gentrification and an Ayn Rand/Marie Antoinette like outlook about wealth disparity and class warfare in Asheville.

    Consider yourself warned- here comes the hate in 3…2…1…

    PS- Hey kids, look for these key words in the Mtn X wordgame! Every key word you find in an alt.right hatemonger/un moderated sock puppet’s posts earns you 2 Pokemon points!

    party of slavery
    lieberal – yes spelled incorrectly
    gub’ment handouts
    ‘won’t understand/open your eyes/see the real Deep State truth’

    have fun with your wordfind puzzle!

    • Deplorable Infidel

      how about ‘liberal progressive democrackkk party of slavery, segregation AND the KKK’ … that succinctly encompasses proper
      description of the leftwing ‘crackkks…

      • Karl Denninger

        Lot of truth to your post…ever read Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism?” I’ve always wondered what the 1920s and 30s were like, but I never wanted to see it from the German perspective! Unfortunately it appears we all have front row seats to the final act of the fall of the American Empire. Will we go quickly and and in a flaming glory? Or will we go out with a whimper and fade off in decades of decay and slow rotting…?

  2. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    A “living wage” tends to do two things: increase costs to offset wage increase, and eliminate jobs.

    • boatrocker

      I’m assuming you support the ‘not enough to live on wage’, aka the ‘dying wage’then?
      Who will groom your lawn and fix you r Taco Bell order if Americans cannot live on a wage, praytell?

      • Lulz

        LOL, you want affordable housing? Brand new single wides for 25,000 are for sale just outside the city limits. The key words here are CITY LIMITS. You want heavy handed regulation lefty loons, well how in the hell can anyone but the well off afford them? They can’t. And Nimby’s aren’t helping. The market in Asheville is reacting to supply and demand. Yet you buffoons won’t increase the supply with easily located and affordable housing but won’t mega projects downtown with high rents and only a small portion for the poor. And that’s not to actually relieve any housing crisis but merely to say you are trying to do something. People want affordable housing and better quality of life? Get rid of the left wing elitist here who are making the 99% poorer by the day.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        Fast food workers who insist on $15/hr will eventually be replaced with robots. Just the way the world works.

      • The Real World

        Time to face the music. This is not a new concept. The more that employees cost (or ANY business expense), the more that employers look for more cost-effective options. Business 101.

        The robots and more automation is coming (touchpad ordering kiosks at McDonald’s in Japan already exist). The sooner people demand a wage that stacks unfavorably to other options, the sooner their jobs will disappear. A very simple premise.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          What these folks apparently don’t get is the reason fast food is not already automated is because of the large pool of unskilled labor. It simply hasn’t been cost-effective . It used to be the same for the textile industry, which once had a large presence in NC. That has largely disappeared due to offshoring (cheaper labor), and the plants that have remained are largely automated. I’ve seen plants in which human intervention only occurred when the raw materials were loaded into the system, and pallets of finished product were loaded onto trucks. Labor intensive textile plants in NC are gone forever. Fast food can’t be off-shored, but it can easily be automated.

          • boatrocker

            Yeah, believe it or not, I agree with the assertion that fast food should be automated- but not by robots.
            Only for having seen enough sci fi movies where robots take over and kill all the humans.
            More like by vending type machines- shove the money in, awful food comes out.
            Fast food, if it is lost as a job choice, oh well. Fast was always valued more highly than food, hence Murica’s obesity problem.

            Now what to do with all the labor those machines displace? Better jobs will demand affordable education, and the GOP is adept at vilifying anyone in the education field.

            According to your altright buddies, public schools are ‘screwls’ which indoctrinate us to worship the ‘democrackkks’. Private schools in my opinion are even worse as much like one shouldn’t run a country the same as a for profit business, I would assert that education is not a business, thought the mid 1800’s public schools did just that in order to create meek little exploitable future factory workers for textile mills.

            I’d be happy to hear your opinions on how to fix everything.
            – what do we do with the displaced workers for automation?
            -as of course offering quality education to make them ready for the world is out, then what?

  3. luther blissett

    “We need an aggressive search for businesses that can prosper here while paying not a living wage, but two and three times as much.”

    Bear selfie tours on Beaucatcher, $50 a pop.

    • boatrocker

      A tourist wrestling the LaZoom tour bus at 30 mph selfie,
      I’d pay for that.

  4. Karl Denninger

    Let’s see if the moderators will allow some free speech this time without having my comment deleted…

    “Why the voters (including Mr. Kemmish) of Asheville and Buncombe County deserve what they get.”

    Let’s just list a few reasons, shall we?

    Belief that making borrowing easier will make something more affordable. By definition this is impossible; not only does all borrowing come with interest (so by definition such borrowing makes something more expensive) basic economics tells you that when money chases goods or services prices rise. Whether the subject is cars, college or houses borrowing will never make affordability better irrespective of the terms offered.

    Belief that the government “needs to do more” whether it be by taxing or spending that which it doesn’t have. If you believe that your federal, state or local government should “float another bond” or “tax the rich” you are a damned idiot. I have already presented the math on this — we could literally give away enough income (from tax revenue) to replace most of our social programs and still cut all federal taxes by 30% and run a $400 billion a year surplus! In short most of the money that goes into Washington DC is stolen instead of going where the people say it goes — it’s just stolen legally. The same is true at the state and local levels.

    Belief that any sort of deficit spending is ever anything other than destruction of your buying power (that is, it’s a net loss) or that the issue of said “bonds” are in fact borrowing instead of said intentional and immediate destruction of your purchasing power. If you don’t understand this then you either have intentionally refused to think or you’re incapable of it. Seriously incapable — like at the level of being unable to balance your own checkbook or make change for a $20 at the store in your head. If you’re incapable of managing your own affairs why should you have the ability to vote and if you’re intentionally refusing to think why do you think you deserve anything other than being financially abused?

    Let’s cut the crap shall we? What we face in this country is coming as a direct result of our own refusal to face facts and figures head-on, calling those conspiracy nuts that argue against the laws of physics what they are — lunatics. At the same time we refuse to call those in Congress and on Main Street that believe there is a “something for nothing” pot of gold to be found in monetary manipulation and bond issues — that is, spending in deficit no matter how it is couched what they are — thieves.

    For exactly how long should someone continue to bang their head against the wall? I’m perfectly fine with any sort of debate, provided we’re holding that debate in a world where 2 + 2 sums to 4. As soon as you try to claim it’s 6 I walk off in disgust; at that point you’re either stupid, ignorant or lying.

    So let me restate the subject line: We deserve what we are getting from our Federal, State and Local Governments and we further deserve what we’re getting from the banksters, the “high frequency” rip-off machine and all of the rest of the Ponzi crap that pervades our system of finance.

    We deserve it because we not only tolerate it we demand it in the infantile expectation that if we “go along to get along” we’ll get our piece of it and “our piece” will be big enough to not care that the majority of the nation’s citizens will get stomped into dust as a consequence.

    Well, you’re free to do that; we still have freedom of expression in the United States, at least in theory.

    I simply refuse to participate or consent on those terms.

    • boatrocker

      Oh my, they published your comment.
      So much for the local fluffy media being ‘rigged’.

  5. GotMyAttention

    I agree with Mr. Kemmish. The housing bond issue, while well intended, spends millions in precious local government dollars on a problem that transcends a relatively small local government’s capacity to address in any meaningful way. The city cannot afford this ultimately symbolic (and therefore quite meaningless) expenditure. The questions for voters are not just, “Is lower cost housing a good thing?” or, “Do I support the idea of some kind of policy to encourage construction of low income housing?” One also needs to ask, 1) “Can an isolated local government, largely acting alone, make a meaningful difference in the problem?”, and 2) “What are the alternative uses of those same monies given the zero-sum nature of local government budgets?” The city is struggling to meet its current commitments and obligations, and is not addressing other pressing and very immediate infrastructure needs. It cannot afford this well intentioned, but very costly, and ultimately futile “feel-good” gesture. The housing issue is more structural, it is rooted in a huge market which responds to much bigger and broader forces than Asheville can reasonably shape, and this initiative takes much needed money away from policies which are more appropriately within the city’s domain and capacity to address in a meaningful way. For those reasons, I will be voting “No.”

    • boatrocker

      I’ve always wanted to tell you this, you and your other un-moderayed sockpuppet personalities online here-
      we read your posts, understand them, maybe we agree or not, but

      YoUr uSE of CaPS nEEds soME work!

      • Deplorable Infidel

        I use CAPS to make certain WORDS stick out…I don’t use them like you stupidly incoherently illustrate. If you don’t like it then don’t read it…

        • Able Allen

          Okay, let’s keep this thread about discussion — rather than sniping at one another.

  6. Deplorable Infidel

    another thought…with the passage of the bond SCAM, landlords will have another great excuse to incur / blame rent increases on city council and can encourage their tenants to complain directly to the Maoyor … what will she say then ? but remember it’s all about affordable housing … uh huh.

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