Council to vote on $1.6M land purchase for affordable housing

Asheville city seal

Asheville City Council members left their annual retreat seemingly in agreement about the importance of boosting affordable housing in the city and the need to craft a policy outlining what will happen to city-owned land acquired through urban renewal policies in the 1970s. 

Both priorities will be put to the test on Tuesday, April 13, as members decide whether to purchase 21 acres of land intended for affordable housing using $1.6 million generated from the December sale of urban renewal land to yeast manufacturer and brewpub White Labs. 

Roughly $1.6 million of the $3.7 million property sale is classified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as Community Development Block Grant funds, meaning it must be spent on certain eligible activities to benefit low- to moderate-income individuals. But HUD requires any CDBG funds over 1.5 times a city’s annual allocation (in Asheville’s case, $1.5M), to be spent by Saturday, May 1.

Attempts to ask HUD for an extension were unsuccessful, Asheville Community Development Director Paul D’Angelo told Council at its March 23 meeting. Purchasing the property at 65 Ford St. is one of the only ways the funds could be spent quickly enough to meet the May 1 deadline, he said. 

Council approved the purchase of the Ford Street property using Affordable Housing Bond land-banking funds in Feb. 2020. According to plans outlined at a Jan. 26 affordable housing work session, the city and the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville hope to create a 60-acre “purpose built community” in place of the current Deaverview complex.

The redesign would include an affordable child care center, a high-performing school and a community center with on-site health services. The project will incorporate at least 300 housing units, including new housing for 156 residents currently living at Deaverview. 

In other news

Council will also consider a loan modification request by Mountain Housing Opportunities in order to maintain 22 affordable housing units at six different properties. 

The nonprofit has asked the city to extend the maturity dates of five loans and eliminate yearly interest payments. In return, MHO will commit to an additional 20-year affordability period and will increase rent restriction guidelines to 60% of the area median income, up from 50% AMI. The rent restriction change will only apply to new and future tenants.

Members will also hear a presentation on the city’s financial audit for the fiscal year ending on June 30. A presentation from RSM, an audit, tax and consulting firm, available ahead of the meeting found “the city of Asheville’s Finance Department experienced significant delays in the year-end accounting and reporting process” and that “Basic footnote schedules were not prepared accurately or timely to facilitate meeting the reporting deadline.” 

Asheville’s former Chief Finance Officer Barbara Whitehorn left the city for a position in San Bernardino, Calif. in January. Assistant Finance Director Tony McDowell has been serving as interim finance officer until a permanent replacement is hired. 

Consent agenda and public comment

The consent agenda for the meeting contains nine items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions: 

  • A resolution approving $949,185.12 of settlement funds from a class action lawsuit over water service fees to be donated in equal amounts to the Asheville City Schools Foundation and CoThinkk. 
  • A $50,000 grant from Dogwood Health Trust to help fund Code Purple emergency shelters for unhoused area residents. Asheville has a $130,000 agreement with Western Carolina Rescue Ministries to provide shelter; Buncombe County has agreed to pay $40,000 of those costs.  
  • An interlocal agreement with Buncombe County to conduct feasibility site assessments and joint solicitation for on-site solar energy systems. According to documents, the solicitation will be issued by Buncombe County and will include county sites along with sites in Weaverville, Black Mountain and on the UNC Asheville campus. 

Prior to the regular meeting, Council members will attend a 2:30 p.m. work session to discuss the city’s fiscal year 2021-22 operating budget. The meeting will be livestreamed at this link; no public comment will be accepted.

The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link. Due to COVID-19, Council will meet remotely, and the meeting will be livestreamed through Asheville’s Public Engagement Hub.

Members of the public who wish to speak during the meeting must sign up in advance at this link or call 828-259-5900 no later than 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 13. City staff will then use the list of registered speakers to manage the speaker queue during the meeting.

Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 9928; written comments can be sent to Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.


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About Molly Horak
Molly Horak served as a reporter at Mountain Xpress. Follow me @molly_horak

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7 thoughts on “Council to vote on $1.6M land purchase for affordable housing

  1. Taxpayer

    This is a huge expenditure for the city and one in which the taxpayers should have a say. The ninny’s running Asheville screw up everything the touch and this will be a big one. Taxpayers have a right to have a say in $1.6 million dollar ideas.

  2. Enlightened Enigma

    While CORE SERVICES go unfunded. Affordable housing is not a function of government.

  3. Taxpayer

    Whatever happened to the truck that picked up leaves? Oh, it died and it was too expensive to buy another one. And the truck that went around and swept city streets? Where has that disappeared to? Whatever happened to mowing and keeping up streets? (The side of our street (that has no sidewalk) has grass and weeds a foot high.) Why is it we can’t afford to fix the enormous potholes on at least the very busy streets? No money? But we have money for speed bumps? Why do we have no sidewalks for a large number of busy streets? Why do we have no money for these basic things but we seem to have plenty for anything else? At least pick up the trash and needles downtown. Surely there’s a few bucks for that?

    • Seth

      We DO and it’s used every day. Have you used the Asheville App? I’ve used it a ton to get guardrails fixed, trash hauled from vacant lots, light poles fixed, mattresses picked up off the side of the road, pot holes fixed in my neighborhood, and many others. It’s super easy. Just use the APP and make a report. Then within a short time frame the issues are usually resolved and you will get email updates on when it’s fixed. Super awesome way to put tax dollars to work for issues that matter to me.

  4. luther blissett

    If a municipality wants affordable housing: Buy land. Build housing. Rent housing. Maintain housing. This is not rocket science.

    The city has spent the past decade devoted to a futile neoliberal Rube Goldberg approach along these lines:
    Council: hey, Developer, we’ll approve your big fancy apartment project if you make 20 units affordable for 10 years and give $100,000 to the Housing Trust Fund.
    Developer: how about 10 units for 5 years and a gift basket? Otherwise, we’ll walk.
    Council: make it two gift baskets and we’re good.

    The housing goals of the city and those of private developers have absolutely nothing in common. It is like trying to train seeing-eye cats. The city should encourage private developers to build the fanciest, stupidest apartment projects and use the property taxes from those fancy, stupid apartments to build housing. “You want to build million-dollar condos? We’ll spot you $50k to cover every surface with marble so you can sell them for $2 million!”

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