On Tuesday, Feb. 23, City Council will tackle an agenda lacking in proclamations or formal public hearings, but heavy on housing for the city’s growing population.
As part of a lengthy consent agenda, Council will review recommendations for awarding low-interest loans from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Created in 2000, the trust fund provides a source of local funding to encourage and assist in the development of affordable housing in Asheville.
The Housing Trust Fund’s projected balance for June 30, 2016 is $1,074,795. For the current funding cycle, six applications for a total of $1,330,000 were presented to the Housing and Community Development Committee (HCD) on Jan. 19, 2016. HCD recommends allocating $1,218,000 to the applicants. According to an HCD memo, based on the development schedules of the proposed projects, the trust fund’s cash flow will cover all draw requests in the current fiscal year. Assuming the trust fund is funded at levels consistent with previous years, the fund is also projected to have sufficient capacity to cover draw requests in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Current city priorities favor the development of rental housing, with one-bedroom and studio units considered the most needed and desired type of rental housing. The city also favors developers seeking lower per-unit subsidies, projects with final planning and zoning approval in place and multi-family and higher-density development located along transit corridors. Applicants also are encouraged to incorporate green technology, energy efficiency and sustainable development practices in their proposals.
HCD recommends awarding the following amounts to the six developers. The interest rates and disbursement schedules vary. Projects are listed from largest to smallest recommended loan amounts:
Smith Mill Place, 72 multifamily rental units on Oak Hill Drive: $520,000
Located off New Leicester Highway close to its intersection with Patton Avenue, this development of 72 units will include 36 affordable units, 18 of which will be one-bedroom units. The developer, Biotat, LLC, has secured the necessary permits. Though the amount of the funding exceeds the Housing Trust Fund’s guidelines, HCD recommends approving the project because of its alignment with city affordable housing priorities and the strength of the development team.
Simpson Street, 60 multifamily rental units: $300,000
This all-affordable project, located just off of Tunnel Road and Swannanoa River Road behind Target, is still in the early stages of planning. The developer, Beaucatcher Properties, LLC, will seek a 100% bonus density increase and conditional use permit (which requires City Council approval), as well as a Land Use Incentive Grant. Planning & Zoning approval has not been secured. The recommended loan allocation is conditioned on the developer improving transit access to nearby transit through walkways, lighting or a shuttle service.
25 White Pine, 15 rental units for veterans: $150,000
Leah and James Kim, sole proprietors, own the site at 25 White Pine Drive, where they currently house veterans in 11 units. The proposed project will add 15 one-bedroom units for veterans to the complex. The project is in its early stages; a zoning change and a conditional use permit will be required, as well as city improvements including increased street width, curb and gutter additions, new fire hydrants, sewer and water extensions and sidewalks. The site is adjacent to the Asheville Mall on Tunnel Road and is close to jobs, transit, groceries and other amenities.
Commonwealth Court, 16 rental units: $128,000
Located just off Sweeten Creek Road on Booker Street, this 16-unit development is proposed by Hearthstone Innovative Homes, LLC, owned by Joseph Kimmel and Bob Scheiderich with Eblen Charities as the primary partner. All units are two-bedroom apartments. The site is owned by the developer and does have planning and zoning approval for eight units, but is requesting a 100% bonus density increase, which will require review by the Technical Review Committee and the Planning & Zoning Commission, as well as City Council approval.
Virginia Avenue, six units: $90,000
This infill project will create three single-family homes and three one-bedroom garage apartments on a half-acre site in West Asheville. The developer is Beaucatcher Properties, LLC. The review committee expressed some concern about the project’s location relative to transit; at nearly a mile from the nearest transit stop, the committee believes this project will be more suited to residents who own a car.
Tunnel Road at Groce United Methodist Church, two units: $30,000
This project will convert an existing church education building to two rental units for homeless families with children. The church will partner with Homeward Bound who will be responsible for identifying the families and doing case management, while Groce United Methodist will be responsible for developing and managing the units. The proposed project is located on Tunnel Road in Beverly Hills and is close to jobs, services and transit. The project will not meet any energy efficiency standards, but both units will be fully ADA accessible.
Also included in the consent agenda are:
- Approving Board of Alcoholic Beverage’s Control travel policies
- Removing the $.50 convenience fee for credit and debit card use at city parking meters for the current budget year
- Testing single-space electronic smart meters at 35 spaces in the Grove Arcade area; the meters will accept coins, debit and credit cards and Passport parking.
- Expanding the A-B Tech police department jurisdiction to include A-B Tech properties on Victoria Road and contiguous A-B Tech-occupied properties
- Approving previously-budgeted waterline construction projects
- Accepting donated funds for a greenway feasibility study in East Asheville. The potential greenway will begin at the intersection of South Tunnel and Swannanoa River roads and will terminate at the Nature Center and Recreation Park, with connections to the River Bend Shopping Center and Highlands Brewing Co.
- Transferring $431,000 from the unassigned general fund balance to the Public Works Department for replenishment of the salt supply and repair or replacement of snow removal equipment
- Adopting Council’s 2036 vision, which was developed at the annual City Council retreat on Jan. 29-30
Presentation on infill housing strategies
City planning director Todd Okolichany will present a report on residential density in Asheville. The upshot: it could be much higher than the current average density of one and a half units per acre.
In a summary attached to his presentation, Okolichany cites the conclusions of the 2015 Asheville Housing Needs Assessment (also known as the Bowen report) that about 43% of Asheville’s renters pay more than one-third of their incomes in rent. Among homeowners, one in three pay more than one-third of their income in housing-related costs. The planning director describes new planning trends that take into account the costs related to automobile transportation in car-dependent locations. Concentrating housing in areas convenient to jobs, services, groceries, transit and other amenities can lower the total cost of housing by allowing residents to forego car ownership or minimize car use, according to Okolichany.
Okolichany’s presentation will focus on removing barriers to infill housing in order to allow property owners and small-scale developers to help meet the city’s housing needs. He will propose studying possible UDO wording amendments addressing:
- Cottage developments
- Multifamily districts
- Lot standards
- Tiny house zoning
- Higher density residential buffer zone
- Conservation development
- Sustainable development
The intent of these strategies, Okolichany’s memo explains, is to bring housing options back into balance so that neighborhoods become denser, more varied and walkable, as they once were intended. These UDO amendments would give more flexibility to landowners so that scarce land can be used more efficiently to offset the negative effects of sprawling development.
As is the case at every meeting of City Council, members of the public will have an opportunity to comment on agenda items or other matters before Council adjourns.
City Council meets at 5 p.m. in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall.
There is one current vacancy for a city board, the HUB Community & Economic Development Alliance. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, March 2 at 5:00 p.m. Call 259-5601 for an application form.
The full agenda of this meeting of Council, plus links to supporting documents, is available here.