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.