Every year, the federal government funnels some $3 million in Housing and Urban Development funds to Asheville and surrounding areas to develop affordable housing. To help manage that big chunk of change, the city and the Asheville Regional Housing Consortium develops five-year plans, which are then submitted to HUD for approval. City staff and Council use these plans to guide them in awarding grant funds to proposals from groups such as Habitat for Humanity and Mountain Housing Opportunities.
The current plan expires at the end of this fiscal year (June 30, 2010), when the final appropriations will go out. Meanwhile, to get the ball rolling on fashioning a new plan, the city and the consortium have scheduled a Dec. 10 hearing to solicit public input.
"We are trying to understand perceived needs and the strategies that are already working," explains Community Development Director Jeff Staudinger.
Feedback from the public, paired with information provided by a panel of local experts, will go into a draft plan. After another round of public comment in January, a revised draft will be submitted to HUD in March. Approval typically comes in July, though many projects expected to move forward during the 2010-11 fiscal year are already in some stage of development, notes Staudinger. But that shouldn't be a big problem for developers, he says, as the priorities in the plan don't typically shift much from year to year.
Not that there won't be some new directions, however. Western North Carolina's economic climate is significantly different now than it was five years ago, says Staudinger, and those changes have implications for how the money can best be spent.
In recent public meetings in Transylvania and Madison counties, he notes, there's been increased emphasis on rental housing opportunities rather than on purchasing homes. "There may be an oversupply of homes for sale," says Staudinger.
Federal funds come in two forms: HOME funds are solely for affordable housing, while Community Development Block Grants can also be used to support local programs such as OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling (formerly the Consumer Credit Counseling Service) and Mountain BizWorks.
The city of Asheville and the Asheville Regional Housing Consortium will hold a public hearing Thursday, Dec. 10, in the Public Works Building (161 S. Charlotte Street), starting at 6:30 p.m. For more info, call Roberta Greenspan at 259-5560, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.