Affordable housing essay: Incentivize job opportunities

Donna Cottrell, Buncombe County Planning Department Courtesy of Buncombe County

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?”

Affordable housing and strategies for solution continue to be a focus for many in our community. A relatively consistent definition says housing is “affordable” if it costs no more than 30 percent of a family’s income. But 30 percent of $300,000 is very different from 30 percent of $20,000. For decades, policymakers and private-sector leaders nationwide have sought an effective solution to the lack of affordable housing. And meanwhile, the very desirability of our community exacerbates the problem. Local government is committed to continuing to focus on addressing our community’s housing needs, and counties, municipalities, partner agencies and stakeholders continue to pool our resources and efforts in search of a long-term solution.

Wages and housing costs are two big factors, and both are driven by supply and demand. Buncombe County government works proactively to incentivize affordable and workforce housing options as well as a diversified economy. By working with both local employers and those interested in moving operations here, Buncombe County has been able facilitate greater job opportunities and a more diversified economy.

But while that addresses one side of the issue, Buncombe County also understands the importance of supporting things like tenant-based rental assistance, emergency repairs, single- and multi-family home construction, down payment assistance, permit fee rebates and workforce housing. The hard work of many nonprofit and private-sector entities makes these programs possible.

While our community continues to work diligently to address housing concerns, Buncombe County, like many other areas across the country, still faces significant challenges. Continuing to incentivize local job opportunities for our community while supporting affordable and workforce housing initiatives can help address Buncombe County’s affordable housing problem.

— Donna Cottrell
Buncombe County Planning Department

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