Affordable housing essay: Collision course

Shannon Kauffman, Habitat homeowner
Shannon Kauffman, Habitat homeowner Photo courtesy of Shannon Kauffman

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?”

Asheville seems to be on a collision course to rid itself of all the things that make this city great. By allowing landlords to capitalize on the hype about Asheville and raise rents to levels only the rich can afford, Asheville is destined to eliminate all the tie-dye and the local flair that made our city desirable to begin with.

Landlords and city officials need to remember that people are drawn to Asheville because of the art and culture produced by the people who live here. If for-profits want to continue seeing Asheville make lists like the Best Places to Live (livability.com) or the Top 10 Cities for Art (americanstyle.com), then they’d better turn to nonprofit agencies like Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity for a lesson in pay-it-forward commerce.

My son and I are so incredibly fortunate to have a home through Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. With a business model that’s based on a hand up instead of a handout, the nonprofit is supporting the city of Asheville by providing affordable homeownership opportunities to the folks who are the backbone of this city. Habitat homeowners (yes, we pay a mortgage) are social workers, educators, civil servants and restaurant workers, among other things — and we’re raising children in a city rich in art, culture and the beauty of individuality. This is what makes Asheville desirable.

I hope I can still say those things about Asheville in five years, because the alternative is a tourist trap or a city stripped of the appeal that made it popular in the first place. If I’d wanted to live in a tourist town, I would have stayed in Whitefish, Mont. And if I’d wanted to live in a city that, by approving ridiculously high rent increases, priced out the very artists who made it special, I would have stayed in Seattle.

We still have the opportunity to make sure that Asheville doesn’t fall into one of the traps that devoured those cities, but we must address the housing crisis now, before it’s too late. I believe this can be done by requiring employers to pay their employees a living wage — which, like affordable housing, is also an endangered species here. I also believe in limiting rent increases to an acceptable percentage, so that a lease renewal doesn’t result in a 20 percent increase for the renter. Moreover, developers and other for-profits must be required to give back to the community by supporting nonprofit agencies like Asheville Habitat that promote affordable housing.

If everyone were committed to doing their part, Asheville might be able to maintain its appeal as a uniquely artistic and livable city. I hope city officials are considering some of the regulations that limit corporate greed, so we don’t become merely another cautionary tale for the next up-and-coming city, but instead design the blueprint for maintaining integrity in the face of urban development.

— Shannon Kauffman
Habitat homeowner

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4 thoughts on “Affordable housing essay: Collision course

  1. Danielle

    Most definitely. Why not some form of rent control? I worry mostly about the folks who were born and raised there. It’s so unfair to them. I hope the city taxes the heck out of these places like Hawthorne apts. because many of the residents in town will end up on food stamps and the money ought to come from the greedy who just jacked up their rent $150.

  2. RedHotPoker

    hey Danielle, they’re probably already on ‘food stamps’…aren’t you? 46 million people are and poverty at an all time high
    EVEN THOUGH we keep rewarding those who will not achieve.

  3. bernard b carman

    this is all complete BS! and now there are people beginning to post that there should be “rent controls”? just how naive are the citizens of Asheville?

    the #1 cause of high rents in AVL is City Council and its collectivist social engineering practices. in my case, the UDO and general City tyranny FORCED me to raise my rents from $400/month to $600/month just to TRY and make my mortgage payments. in spite of my explaining to Council members that its “one-size-fits-all” UDO legislation was going to force me to default on my mortgage, these Council members could not care less.

    so yeah, keep on controlling people in the Land of Tyranny & Home of the Slave and see where that gets all of us! :-|

  4. The crisis is one of total housing supply; not enough units. and it is caused by the UDO, with its single family zoning, unit density limits, residential height limits, setbacks, and parking requirements.

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