“Workforce housing” leaves most workers in the cold

An article in the Nov. 24 Mountain Xpress [“Not Ready for Prime Time”] mentioned affordable housing as “workforce” housing and described such jobs as police officers, nurses, teachers and other workers. According to the article, affordable housing was based on 30 percent of the workers’ annual household income. There were examples of pricing at the new Glen Rock Depot: $508 for an efficiency and $589 for a one-bedroom.

I take a bit of exception to this, as I see myself as a very intricate part of the workforce. I am a city employee and earn less then 30 grand a year. I am always bugged by the words affordable housing, as I do not feel it is affordable to the workforce. If rent is based on 30 percent of the annual household income for a workforce that is making $30,000 to $40,000 a year, it does not make such housing affordable to those who make less.

When are they going to look at affordable housing for the rest of the workforce? The city employees who fix our streets and water lines … make less than $30,000 a year, as does the staff of your favorite coffee house, restaurant or store.

People [like me], who make less than $30,000 a year, are forced to live beyond our means or move into government-subsidized housing, which most don't qualify for either.

The workforce seems stuck in the middle. [City Council members] speak of affordable housing but don't look at the ones who really need it. I am currently living in a one-bedroom efficiency that costs me over 40 percent of my monthly income, and it is one of the cheaper apartments I was able to find. I struggle every month just to keep afloat. I think it's a shame that there is not more consideration for people like me.

— Josh Mallernee
Asheville

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11 thoughts on ““Workforce housing” leaves most workers in the cold

  1. artart

    I think it’s a shame that there is not more consideration for people like me.

    — Josh Mallernee
    Asheville

    And, Josh, I think it’s a shame that often people look too much to others (government??) to solve their problems instead of doing more to help themselves if they are capable of helping themselves.

  2. TokyoTaos

    I hate to say it but if you want to live alone in an efficiency or one-bedroom it is going to cost you. However if you’re willing to live with others that can bring the cost down. I have found house-share situations (even close to downtown) starting at $350.

  3. TokyoTaos

    P.S. Also, Josh, the figures you quote,”$508 for an efficiency and $589 for a one-bedroom,” do not refer to the Glen Rock Depot project but to the proposed rental caps within the incentives policy for developers building workforce housing. Glen Rock Depot is actually a project of Mountain Housing Opportunities and the rents are much lower than what you quoted as are the income caps: $23,280 for a 1 person household, $26,640 for a 2 person household and $29,9400 for a 3 person or beyond household.

    Not that you don’t have a valid point!

  4. phantom28804

    The prices I quoted were from the article itself which from the sound of it was the prices for the Glen Rock Depot. I have not personally checked into the Depot itself for there prices. I wrote my editorial based on the article in Xpress.

  5. Avl Tao

    TokyoT, Josh cited RENTS based on one source; you do not cite any rents, instead u cite income limits which you state they are from another source.
    Such apples-n-oranges discussions rarely bear fruit.
    But both you & Josh can go online and get the correct income and rent limits for the Glen Rock, which must adhere to rent and income guidelines for federal low-income housing tax credits; as well as those other guidelines set up for “Transformational” project proposals in Asheville.

  6. Avl Tao

    TokyoT, Josh cited RENTS based on one source; you do not cite any rents, instead u cite income limits which you state they are from another source.
    Such apples-n-oranges discussions rarely bear fruit.
    But both you & Josh can go online and get the correct income and rent limits for the Glen Rock, which must adhere to rent and income guidelines for federal low-income housing tax credits; as well as those other guidelines set up for “Transformational” project proposals in Asheville.

  7. Avl Tao

    Josh, your points are valid: the costs of housing (renting included) in Asheville are terribly out-of-balance with local median wages/salaries. Local governments here work on both sides of the problem, making things worse and fueling the fire via all certain policy supports designed to prop up a real estate development-based and tourism-based economy. Both of these economies are notorious nationwide for being financially unsustainable and impossible to stay balanced since both types of economies rely on in-flows of outsider money that bubbles up local real estate prices (and other prices) far beyond what local median wages can handle.
    Yet, it’s true that a bit of that inflow of outsider money also trickles down…drip drip drip… as service worker wages.
    Local govt and voters feel that those drips justify their efforts to prop up tourism and real estate development.
    Picture a dog chasing its tail in vain, each step taken to get closer to the tail simply moves the tail further away.
    That visual describes how voters and local govt efforts worsen a situation while trying to solve it with every step taken, when the hand they have is heavily dependent on a real estate development-based and tourism-based economy.
    Until local real estate is forced – as an economy – to be affordable to local renters and local buyers who are earning local median wages, there will never be a sustainable balance between local wages and local housing costs in Metro Asheville.
    Thenational economy is actually grinding its way to bringing in this balance – and because it has to overcome misguided human policies, the methods used by the economy are very brutal and harsh: bankruptcies of developers, collapse of property values, foreclosures and evictions, tax shortfalls, bank failures and forced mergers, loss of revenues, layoffs & furloughs, dislocations, worry and fear.
    Rinse, then Repeat.
    A process that so horrified us when it kicked into high gear in late 2008 that voters, dems & GOPers alike all rushed to embrace any idea & plan to stop the scariness from unfolding, from tax credits for MHO, to tax cuts for recruiting bizs, to stimulus $s for Land of Sky, to loans for Ingles, to Cash for Clunkers, to TARP money for Carolina First Bank, to foreclosure prevention loans for OnTrack.
    It all has simply slowed but not topped or reversed the glacially-slow grind towards bringing living costs, wages, and real estate values into a more sustainable balance via an ugly brutal process made only worse by fearmongering and financial illiteracy shared by politicians, business, voters & taxpayers.

  8. TokyoTaos

    Josh and Ash Tao,

    here is a link to the original article:

    http://www.mountainx.com/news/2010/112410not-ready-for-prime-time

    The article does not even mention the Glen Rock Depot (although there is a photo of the project that runs with the story but no mention of it within the story itself.)

    The income limits I cite are from the Glen Rock Depot website. I have two friends who were lucky enough to qualify for a rental there (apparently there was a lot of competition) and the rent they’re paying is way below the figures in the article.

    The article is not about the Glen Rock Depot but about the proposed rental caps within the incentives policy for developers that plan to build workforce housing.

    That is all I wanted to clarify.

  9. artart

    Tao,when you talk of local real estate being forced to be “affordable” are you envisioning some sort of government imposed controls. Maybe like the NYC rent control concepts? If you are advocating that, are you aware that government controls on rents actually has the effect of lowering the number of “affordable’ housing units?

  10. Franklin

    The rents for 1 bedrooms at the Glen Rock start at $348 for qualified renters. I went to the open house and it is a lovely building for that price!

  11. BigAl

    “Until local real estate is forced…to be affordable to local renters and local buyers who are earning local median wages…The national economy is actually grinding its way to bringing in this balance”

    How exactly is this occuring?

    Forcing those with goods and services to sell at set prices sounds like the Soviet managed economy to me.

    Did the Communist Party win the last election disguised as Tea Party Republicans while I wasn’t looking?

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