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?”
A safe place to call home in a neighborhood that’s connected to the wider community helps children and families thrive. For too long we’ve let ZIP codes determine the outcomes for child and family success. And amid a local job market with an abundance of low-wage positions, our history of racial and economic segregation persists. That leaves workers, especially parents, facing difficult choices when it comes to meeting basic needs — particularly housing.
How will we close the gap between local wages and housing costs while bridging historical dividing lines? Numerous city leaders, advocates and nonprofits have blazed a path, laying the groundwork for a range of visionary responses that elicit our creativity and generosity. Here are three ideas:
- Build opportunity, not just housing. Safe, affordable housing is a step toward opportunity and success but not the final destination. It’ll take accessory units, manufactured homes, cooperatives, land banks, increased density, small homes and apartments to address the lack of supply. But turning a physical structure into a home also requires access to schools, jobs, transit, parks, food and a community fabric that builds resiliency and interconnection.
- Cultivate long-lasting, inclusive public/private partnerships. We must work with (and cultivate) leaders in government, schools, health care, hotels, nonprofits, restaurants, small and large employers, neighborhoods and faith communities. We must face our history honestly and move forward with promising strategies and mutual accountability. Bring diverse perspectives to the table, including those of the people whom past and present housing markets left behind.
- Create sustainable funding sources. Innovative ideas, like the recent attempt to dedicate part of the hotel room tax for affordable housing construction and the public/private partnerships forming around the Lee Walker Heights redevelopment, merit further attention.
I encourage you to find your place as volunteer, advocate, dreamer, fundraiser or builder as, together, we lay the foundation for greater opportunity.
— Greg Borom
Director of Advocacy
Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County