Are microhousing developments that meet city affordability standards worth supporting with taxpayer money?
Asheville City Council will examine that question Tuesday, June 27, as it considers updates to the city’s Land Use Incentive Grant policy. Members will vote on whether to temporarily ban LUIG grants for microhousing projects — those with individual housing units smaller than a studio apartment, or about 400 square feet — until the city can develop new standards for the category.
In 2021, Council approved a roughly $593,000 LUIG grant for an 80-unit microhousing development at 217 Hilliard Ave. in a 5-2 vote, with Council members Sheneika Smith and Antanette Mosley opposed. Each unit in the development was sized at no more than 250 square feet and would share a communal kitchen and living space with up to 17 other units.
The Hilliard project technically adhered to all of the requirements of the LUIG program, introduced by Asheville in 2010 to incentivize low-income rental housing through city tax rebates. However, rents for the units subsidized by the program were projected to be about same as those for all other units in the development. At the time, both Smith and Mosley questioned whether the grant would actually increase affordable housing.
According to a staff report, the issue arose again in February, when the city’s Housing and Community Development Committee considered a LUIG application for microapartments at 46 Aston St. The city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee subsequently recommended that Council suspend LUIG awards for microhousing; the staff report notes that Asheville policy “does not contemplate microapartments which are substantially smaller than a typical studio unit.”
If Council approves the LUIG pause, city staffers would consider whether the program’s incentives should be adjusted — or even eliminated — in light of the smaller size and lower market rents of microhousing developments. They would also evaluate whether communal kitchen and living spaces meet the needs of those looking for affordable housing, as well as if microhousing qualifies for support from federal housing vouchers.
Council’s agenda indicates that members were slated to consider the 46 Aston St. grant on June 27. That hearing has tentatively been rescheduled to Tuesday, July 25, but would be continued further if the LUIG pause is approved.
In other news
Council will also consider a conditional zoning request for a 221-unit housing project located at 311 and 319 Biltmore Ave. According to a staff report, 30% of those units would be designated as affordable for a minimum of 30 years, with 45 available to those earning up to 60% AMI ($33,750 for an individual; $48,188 for a family of four) and 22 units to those earning up to 80% AMI ($45,000 for an individual; $64,250 for a family of four).
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 12 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- Updates to an ordinance that would prohibit the storing of bicycles, carts, strollers or other means of personal transportation on city property for longer than seven days. A similar amendment, which would have set a three-day storage limit, was previously slated to come before Council in April but was removed from consideration. The city’s Multimodal Transportation Commission recommended reintroducing the prohibition with the extended time frame in May.
- A resolution authorizing City Manager Debra Campbell to apply for $100,000 from the federal State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program. If received, the money would partially cover a $159,000 contract to expand cybersecurity monitoring and network security for Asheville’s water production facilities.
- A resolution authorizing Campbell to execute a roughly $110,00 contract with Arden-based Jackson Electrical Contractors to replace four generators located in Fire Stations 2, 8, 9 and 12. According to a staff report, the city plans to replace the aging generators with more efficient, reliable machinery.
Council members will gather in their chambers on the second floor of City Hall, located at 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 listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 2009.
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 2009.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.