East Asheville affordable housing loan approved, hotel moratorium extended

NEW HOUSE ON THE BLOCK: Asheville City Council approved a $1.1 million Housing Trust Fund loan to build 11 single-family housing units in Oakley. Asheville developer Al Clement has already built eight homes on the property. Screen capture courtesy of Google Maps

In its latest effort to promote affordable housing, Asheville City Council voted 6-1 on Sept. 22 to approve a $1.1 million Housing Trust Fund loan to the Juna Group to develop 11 single-family units in Oakley. 

Each three-bedroom home will sell for roughly $275,000, a price considered affordable for residents making 100% of the area median income ($72,500 for a family of four), explained Paul D’Angelo, the city’s community development program director. The average market price for a home of similar size is $643,000, D’Angelo told Council; as of Sept. 18, he added, only 40 homes for sale within Asheville city limits were priced under $275,000. 

D’Angelo said his department will work to market the homes to qualified buyers at 80% AMI or above who can receive down payment assistance through other programs. “It’s hard to create a win-win partnership that can set the example for the community that this can be done, but I think this partnership is a step in the right direction,” he noted. 

If no qualified buyers in that income range come forward within six months, the homes may be sold to individuals making up to 120% AMI ($87,000 for a family of four), D’Angelo added. 

Developer and Asheville native Al Clement purchased the property, located on Shakedown Street off Broadview Street, in 2017. The city approved plans to build 19 affordable housing units on the 4.8 acre lot in 2018; eight other homes are either complete or in the final stages of construction. 

Council member Gwen Wisler voted against the measure, claiming the option to allow residents making up to 120% AMI to purchase the homes didn’t match Asheville’s affordable housing policy. “I am supportive of homeownership; I think it’s a great way to build wealth and it’s a step in the right direction,” she said. “I just don’t feel like it’s meeting our objectives and I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be leaving all of these various loopholes.”

Hotel moratorium extended for five more months

Council members voted unanimously to extend the city’s hotel moratorium for an additional five months, citing delays to the process for creating new hotel rules caused by COVID-19. The ban on new hotel development was previously set to expire at the end of September. 

Last fall, Asheville contracted with the Urban Land Institute to study how hotel development could better meet community needs. The nonprofit recommended an incentive-based approach to review all future hotel proposals; a project would receive points for public benefits, meeting technical standards and an assessment by a design review board, explained Todd Okolichancy, Asheville’s planning and urban design director, at Council’s meeting of Sept. 8. 

Under the new proposal, a project could be approved at the staff level if it met certain criteria, eliminating Council review. Members balked at the idea after hearing the proposal on Sept. 8; as Brian Haynes put it, “Council approval is the only thing we had that was slowing the pace of hotel development at all.” 

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, Council will attend a work session to discuss zoning changes and requirements for future hotel development. The moratorium will now expire on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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11 thoughts on “East Asheville affordable housing loan approved, hotel moratorium extended

  1. Jean

    $275,000 sounds a bit high… I find it difficult to believe that even 2 adults in a home wou.ld earn enough to make those payments in Asheville!

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  2. Curious

    Could someone please remind me why hotels are bad for Asheville? Would like data, please, on the bad effects of hotels.

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        • luther blissett

          One aspect is that developers tend to operate in packs — there’s safety in numbers — and since they got bitten by the hotel bug every spare parcel is deemed a hotel-in-waiting. That drives out other development. At the same time, Asheville/Buncombe lacks office space for sole proprietor or small businesses: not just affordable office space, but *any* space. (Yeah, I know, Covid changes things. But not everything can be done remotely.)

          The other aspect, as the report notes, is that the occupancy tax created its own perverse incentives for the barely-accountable recipient of its revenues without taking account of broader infrastructure needs.

          So it’s not hotels per se, it’s the externalities of hotels.

    • Maryanne R. Rackoff

      The hotel overlay district would allow for hotel(s) along the French Broad River with very low setbacks: 30 ft. for a building and 15 ft. for parking lot, These impervious surfaces will create some toxic runoff during rain events, lead to additional pollution by way of sediment runoff, increase stream bank erosion, and provide blockage of the beautiful vision of the River for ALL to otherwise enjoy. (Reliable scientific data predicts more severe rain events in the near future, and flooding us already a problem. There is also the issue of increased urbanization, forcing out lower income individuals, and increasing stormwater runoff.

      • NIMBY

        Would it be better if we put multi-family housing (apartment complexes) there? Increased supply could make housing more affordable.

    • indy499

      No, its better to regulate Asheville supply and have new hotels built in the county so people can drive more.

      The fact we are a tourist town and always have been is apparently too much for people to comprehend. The US is many times larger and we have fewer downtown hotel room than we had 100 years ago.

  3. NIMBY

    At what point will City leaders acknowledge that every restriction leads to “less affordable” housing? Regulations (on trees, hotels, environment, etc.) may be needed, but each adds costs to Asheville home ownership. Even zoning raises prices.

    At some point the city must address density and allow folks to “build baby build”. Otherwise “Not In My BackYard” will make affordable housing even more scarce.

    • indy499

      In this city? How about never. I doubt more than 1 council member has ever picked up an economics book.

      • C-Law

        Asheville gets the government it deserves. The comedy gold gift that keeps on giving!

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