2018 in review: What mattered for affordable housing in WNC

Rev. Jim Abbott
GRAND PLANS: The Rev. Jim Abbott of St. Matthias Episcopal Church in the East End/Valley Street neighborhood looks at the rendering of a proposed affordable housing complex on city-owned property on Charlotte Street. Photo by Leslie Boyd

With apologies to Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a resident of Western North Carolina in possession of little fortune must be in want of affordable housing. In 2018, governments and organizations throughout the area tried to tackle the problem with a range of creative solutions.

  1. Rental plans for city-owned land: Asheville officials considered putting up the city’s own land as an inducement for developers to create affordable rental units. At City Council’s Dec. 11 meeting, Council directed staff to continue plans for properties on Biltmore Avenue and South Charlotte Street, with next steps in come in January.
  2. Affordable condo experiment: After the city’s chosen developer for its former Parks Maintenance Facility at 360 Hilliard Ave. said rental units were no longer economically feasible due to increasing construction costs, City Council agreed on Nov. 13 to change the project to a for-sale condominium model. This is the first such project for Asheville, and it remains unclear how the units’ affordability will be maintained over a 50-year timespan.
  3. Habitat for Humanity multifamily housing: In Candler, the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Curry Court development marked the nonprofit’s first departure from a single-family home approach. Rising expenses for land and construction materials drove the move, even though Habitat relies on volunteers and future homeowners for its labor.
  4. BeLoved tiny home village: On June 2, the nonprofit intentional community BeLoved Asheville took its first step toward a development of roughly a dozen tiny homes on an acre of land in East Asheville. Unlike many projects geared toward those with moderate incomes, the village would focus on serving the homeless and those in poverty.
  5. Small-scale multifamily development promotion: A city-sponsored workshop with faculty from the Incremental Development Alliance sought to revitalize interest in housing alternatives that fill the gap between single-family homes and apartment complexes. In an Oct. 5 commentary for Xpress, local consultant Ben Brown argued that such options would help meet demand for walkable, in-town housing.
  6. County expansion of manufactured home zoning: Commissioner Joe Belcher shared Buncombe County’s proposal to allow manufactured homes in residential zones that currently don’t allow them at a Dec. 7 meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners. He said that low-income community members should be allowed to build the home they can afford, regardless of type.
  7. Homebuyers widening their search: With affordability so hard to come by in Asheville, many are seeking options in rural Buncombe County or even beyond county lines. In May, Xpress examined that trend and the future outlook for real estate in outlying areas.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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