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 AshevilleCityCouncilApril132021@PublicInput.com. Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.