NOTE: On the morning of Feb. 12, the Down Payment Assistance Policy was continued to the Council meeting of Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Prospective first-time homebuyers may soon get a leg up from Asheville’s government thanks to a new program slated for discussion at City Council’s Tuesday, Feb. 12, meeting. The Down Payment Assistance Policy could provide $1.4 million, in no-interest loans of up to $40,000 each, toward mortgages on single-family residences within Asheville city limits.
As explained in a staff report by Paul D’Angelo, the city’s housing development specialist, the policy is meant to promote homeownership among “moderate- and lower-income families” making up to 120 percent of the area median income. That equates to $51,600 annually for an individual or $73,600 for a family of four.
Up to $1 million in funding would come from the city’s $25 million Affordable Housing General Obligation Bonds, which were approved by Asheville voters in 2016. Half of these funds would be reserved through the end of 2021 for buyers making under 60 percent of the AMI, while the remainder would be available to those making up to 80 percent of the AMI and would be spent by the end of October 2023.
The remaining $400,000 would consist of $300,000 from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and $100,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta. Money from this pot, which would expire in March 2020, would be restricted to city government employees and Asheville City Schools teachers — referenced in the policy as “Community Heroes” — making between 80 and 120 percent of the AMI.
Homebuyers would not make monthly payments on the down payment loans but would be required to pay the money back upon the sale or refinancing of their properties. While the city would charge no interest on the loans, the repayment amount would be adjusted proportionally to any appreciation in home value.
Before their regularly scheduled meeting, Council members will hear a budget briefing about the city’s Capital Improvement Plan. According to a presentation posted before the meeting by city Chief Financial Officer Barbara Whitehorn, Asheville will spend $33.6 million on capital projects in the current fiscal year, with over $45 million in spending anticipated for the next budget cycle.
However, the presentation notes that the city’s infrastructure needs far exceed its currently planned funding. While $60 million has been earmarked for projects through fiscal year 2023, city departments have requested $330 million in funding through fiscal 2024.
Specific unfunded projects include $60 million to renovate the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, $26 million in greenway system expansions and $5 million to upgrade infrastructure at McCormick Field. The Transit Master Plan — unanimously approved by Council in July and originally slated to expand bus service this summer — also remains unfunded to the tune of $76 million, including $50 million for a new bus operating facility.
“Like most communities, Asheville has historically been challenged to fund capital needs,” Whitehorn writes in the presentation. “Continued investments are required to maintain our momentum.”
Council will vote to approve 12 items on its consent agenda for the meeting. Unless specifically singled out for separate discussion, these items are typically approved as a package. Highlights include the following:
- A resolution authorizing an over $2.1 million construction agreement with Flat Rock-based Cooper Construction Company for a new water transmission line along North Fork Road. David Melton, Asheville’s water resources director, notes that existing lines are “highly susceptible to failure” when the Swannanoa River floods.
- A resolution reducing a Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority grant agreement by $975,000. As previously reported by Xpress, the money had been earmarked for the Beaucatcher Greenway project, which has now been delayed to 2024.
- A resolution authorizing roughly $300,000 in spending for Asheville-based NHM Constructors to make improvements to storm drainage, sidewalks and bus travel lanes at the Asheville Redefines Transit bus station. This amount exceeds the initial budget for the project by nearly $130,000.
- A resolution authorizing over $250,000 in spending for Charlotte-based GHD Consultants to assist with the Treatment Improvements and Residuals Disposal Options project. The city’s water treatment facilities must develop a new plan for their residuals, or “sludge,” after changes to permitting for the Metropolitan Sewerage District facilities that previously handled the waste.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. The budget briefing on the Capital Improvement Program will be held in the same space starting at 3 p.m. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.