As housing costs skyrocket, Council reviews affordable housing projects

SLOW BUILD: Construction of the mixed income community at 360 Hilliard Ave. is expected to finish this spring, community development program director Paul D’Angelo told members of Asheville City Council at a Jan. 26 affordable housing work session. The finished project will include 34 affordable units. Screen capture courtesy of the city of Asheville.

The average Asheville rent is $1,200 a month, Asheville community development director Paul D’Angelo told members of Asheville City Council at a Jan. 26 work session dedicated to the city’s housing needs. And according to a housing cost analysis commissioned by the city, D’Angelo continued, someone making $50,000 a year is still likely to struggle with monthly housing costs. 

In a city where land is one of the hottest commodities and tourism-based jobs net lower wages, the “planets must align” to address the complicated question of affordable housing, added City Manager Debra Campbell. Council has long vowed to address the issue through community partnerships, low-interest loans and fee rebates for developments that include affordable housing. But market forces have continued to drive prices ever higher; according to listings website Apartment List, the median Asheville rent increased 5.9% over the past year.

The city invested over $13.2 million to create 373 units of housing at or below 80% of the area median income in 2020, D’Angelo said. Major investments included the $4.2 million redevelopment of Lee Walker Heights; when completed this May, the project will bring online 212 units priced at 60% AMI or below. Also slated for spring completion are 34 affordable units at 360 Hilliard Ave. and 70 affordable units at Amaranth Apartments in Candler. 

Efforts are ramping up to finalize proposals for the upcoming year, D’Angelo told Council members following an update on area housing trends. If efforts succeed as projected, Asheville’s 2021 affordable housing work plan will create housing opportunities for 500 individuals and families; city investments are expected to be around $23 million. 

Here’s what’s coming down the 2021 pipeline: 

  • Initial steps to expand Deaverview Apartments into a “purpose-built community.” In partnership with Mountain Housing Opportunities, Dogwood Health Trust, Buncombe County and the Asheville Housing Authority, the city plans to purchase 21 acres between Cedar Hill and the current Housing Authority site to create a 60-acre community, complete with an affordable child care center, a high-performing school and a community center with on-site health services. The project will consist of at least 300 housing units, including new housing for 156 residents currently living at Deaverview. 
  • A proposal from the Haywood Street Congregation to build 42 units of permanently affordable apartments on a city-owned parcel on Asheland Avenue. The deal has come under fire because the land in question was originally purchased under the city’s urban renewal program. At Council’s meeting of Tuesday, Feb. 23, members will decide if the land should be sold to Haywood Street Congregation for $1. 
  • An 80-unit apartment complex for people experiencing chronic homelessness. The project, in partnership with Homeward Bound, will serve individuals at 30% AMI or below. 
  • A mixed-use, mixed-income development at 319 Biltmore Ave., adjacent to Lee Walker Heights. Of 250 planned units, 50 will be available at 60% AMI, and 25 at 80% AMI, for 30 years. 
  • The acquisition of the Talbert Lot at 50 Asheland Ave. to expand the downtown transit center. Dogwood Health Trust has agreed to fund half of the purchase; the rest of the funding will come from the sale of city-owned land to White Labs Inc.
  • Development of three vacant, city-owned sites for affordable homes. Proposals include four town homes at 60% AMI on Kentucky Drive and single family homes at 60% AMI each on Lufty Avenue and West Chestnut Street. 
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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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5 thoughts on “As housing costs skyrocket, Council reviews affordable housing projects

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    when the city drags your building permit process out for 8-12 + months it just adds more and more costs and higher RENTS !!!

    And, now with the BIDENG adm. in POWER, we have to raise prices on everything to cover for the democrackkk inflation!

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  2. NIMBY

    Density, density, density. More housing will naturally lead to more affordable housing and more chances to put affordable housing requirements in new developments. We have to stop our protectionist policies and build. This isn’t just the resort town it once was. Start acting like it.

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  3. Charles

    There would be a lot more affordable housing for locals if illegal short term rentals were actually prohibited. They’re everywhere and the number continues to grow. I have reported quite a few but the owners just say they live there and that’s that. One owner lives in Belize now and the entire house is rented approximately 4 nights/week. Others just take the stove out for permit inspections and put it back in later. Property searches show a lot of out of state owners.

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    • WNC

      So you recommend homeowners follow your desires for how they use their property? What if people decide you should lease 35% of your homes space to a Tennant at 35% of average market price? This would have to help ease housing needs.

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      • Charles

        It’s illegal. And no, I don’t believe out of state investors should be able to buy multiple properties in Asheville neighborhoods and rent them out illegally by the night. The city should enforce its own ordinances.

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