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.