Affordable housing essay: Asheville is a national leader

LEAVING BIG SHOES: Jeff Staudinger, a longtime city staffer and current assistant director of community and economic de- velopment, has recently announced his re- tirement. File photo Photo by Tracy Rose

Editor’s note: This essay is part of a series in which local experts were asked: “What would it take to solve the Asheville area’s affordable housing problem?”

Although it might be hard for some to believe, Asheville is a national leader in affordable housing policy and production. Successful communities throughout the country are all facing the same issues: rising demand for land and increased building costs.

Relative to the city’s size and budget, Asheville’s Housing Trust Fund represents a significant ongoing commitment to creating affordable housing. The city’s 2015-16 budget allocates $1 million for affordable housing: $500,000 for the Housing Trust Fund and $500,000 for related capital improvements. Amending the Unified Development Ordinance to increase allowable densities in our urban commercial corridors is another example of City Council’s commitment to supporting affordable housing production.

But we still have a long way to go. City Council recently adopted a goal of assisting in the production of 2,800 new affordable housing units in the next seven years. That, however, is only about half of the city’s projected need over the next five years.

Current financing and regulatory tools alone cannot produce enough new affordable housing to meet the need. To achieve that, we’ll need to support our existing housing partners, find new partners in both the public and private sectors, implement new policies and embrace new tools. At its affordable housing work session last October, City Council established goals and supported staff taking specified actions to meet the city’s affordable housing needs. Those actions include:

·       Embracing mixed income, mixed-use development as the goal, rather than the exception.

·       Embracing urban density.

·       Supporting urban density with multimodal transportation.

·       Supporting urban density with quality-of-life improvements that embrace inclusivity and diversity.

·       Creating a regulatory environment that requires inclusivity but removes barriers to it.

·       Establishing a financing environment that recognizes the long-term value of and need for affordability.

·       Creating a stewardship structure that supports permanent, place-based affordability.

By combining policy, financing and regulatory reform, the city and its stakeholders are making progress in meeting today’s needs and ensuring that Asheville can be a diverse, affordable and livable city in the future.

— Jeff Staudinger
Assistant Director, Community & Economic Development
City of Asheville

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