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?”
It must be stated that “affordable housing” is low-income housing (income restricted housing). And in the absence of federal subsidies that once offset the debt service and labor costs, all communities are searching for alternative ways to produce low-income housing.
Possible solutions include:
1. Aggressively recruit employers that can provide adequate wages. The educational system is a major factor: The better educated the population, the more attractive the community is to “good” employers. Residents deserve economic and educational opportunities that enable them to earn enough money that they don’t need low-income housing.
2. Bridge the “financial gap”:
“Affordable Housing”/ Low Income Housing
A. Rework existing low-income housing communities. The city owns the land, infrastructure is in place, and the locations are very good. These communities are very low-density and can easily be replaced with higher density.
B. Develop vacant city-owned land into low-income/workforce housing communities. These could be boutique projects, as most of those sites are smaller parcels.
A. Modify zoning regulations to allow multifamily development in more locations. Flexible policies allow for creative solutions.
B. Increase allowable density: more apartments, less land.
C. Revamp the city’s housing incentives into packages that are meaningful to the multifamily industry.
D. Lower MSD’s impact fee. Currently each housing unit pays a $2,500 fee, regardless of size.
E. Let apartment developers do what we always do: OVERBUILD. We will build as long as the banks will lend. This ALWAYS results in lowering market rents.
F. Provide incentives to repurpose existing housing units. Asheville/Buncombe has an aging housing inventory. These properties cost less to produce years ago and, with some financial incentives, could be more economically converted into low-income/workforce housing.
— Harry Pilos