A lot has changed in Asheville’s housing market since the early 2000s. That’s when the then-members of Asheville City Council first established the Housing Trust Fund, which offers low-interest loans to developers who build affordable housing in the city. Today, the program has struggled to keep up with Asheville’s red-hot housing market and rising cost of living.
That’s why members of Asheville City Council will consider making changes to the Housing Trust Fund policy during their meeting of Tuesday, Dec. 13, to try to meet the challenges and costs of today’s housing market and the community’s needs.
According to a presentation available before the meeting, the Housing Trust Fund was established in 2000 and began receiving annual allocations between $400,000-$500,000 from the city’s general fund each year. The 2016 Affordable Housing Bond also allocated $5 million in general obligation bonds to the fund in 2017. The current available balance of the HTF sits at roughly $7.65 million.
The current approved uses for the money include construction of new housing for sale or rental, rehabilitation of existing property and down payment assistance loans. To qualify, at least 20% of the total project units must be considered affordable, and properties must be located within the city limits. A staff report on the program notes that approximately $15 million was loaned to developers 2001-2019, leading to the construction or rehabilitation of 1,300 affordable units within the city limits.
Affordable units that have been pledged to the city in exchange for a density bonus, conditional zoning or other special consideration are not eligible for the program. Housing Trust Funds are also not available for individuals seeking to build or renovate their own home.
The proposed revisions to the program would modify the $1 million cap on funding requests and instead use 10% of the total estimated project costs as the limit for the loan amounts. The update would also remove the $20,000 per unit subsidy cap and reclassify rehabilitation of single-family homes and duplexes as eligible for funding, and adjust the scoring rubric to better align with current policies and community priorities and recommendations from the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. The changes would also align the city’s application process with Buncombe County’s starting in fiscal year 2022-23 to assist in decision making and provide more predictability to the development community.
The staff report notes that the new deadline for HTF applications will be in February, with Council to make its final funding decisions in April.
In other news
Prior to the formal meeting, Council will also hold a work session on the city’s capital improvement program beginning at 2 p.m. Public comment will not be accepted at the work session.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 17 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- A resolution authorizing City Manager Debra Campbell to execute a contract for up to $162,000 for three years with Cole Pro Media LLC for “police transparency engagement advising services.” The media service was tapped after a report recommended that Council review the arrest, tactics, policies and procedures involved in “an excessive force incident” in 2018. In February 2018, the Asheville Citizen Times published leaked police body camera footage of the Asheville Police Department’s interaction with Asheville resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush in which he was beaten by former APD officer Christopher Hickman.
- A resolution authorizing the city manager to accept $150,000 in grant funds from the Golden Leaf Foundation for the Swannanoa River Road Flood Mitigation and Damage Reduction Feasibility Study. According to a staff report, the corridor regularly floods during large rain events because of its proximity to the Swannanoa River floodplain, and the study would be used to support preliminary engineering findings for the Swannanoa Transportation Corridor Resiliency Plan.
- A resolution appointing Sage Turner as a member of the Audit Committee and a resolution appointing Maggie Ullman Berthiaume as an ex-officio nonvoting member to the Citizens-Police Advisory Committee.
Council members will gather in their chambers on the second floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza, starting at 5 p.m. The meeting will also be carried live on Charter/Spectrum Channel 193 and livestreamed through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can also listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 9627.
Those who wish to speak during the meeting must attend in person and sign up at the door. No live remote comment will be permitted. Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 9627; written comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org until 9 a.m. Dec. 13. General comments for City Council can be sent at any time to AshevilleNCCouncil@AshevilleNC.gov.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.