The quest for affordable housing: An introduction

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers and supporters raise wall. Photo courtesy of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity

Forget “Keep Asheville Weird.” For many locals, the motto might as well be: “Make Asheville Affordable.”

Nationally, housing costs have risen dramatically in the past 20 years, notes Jeff Staudinger, assistant director of the city’s Community and Economic Development Department. In Asheville, that trend is exacerbated by the high cost of land, the particular challenges of building in the mountains, and a growing demand that drives up both home prices and rents.

“There’s an extremely limited supply of housing of all ranges in Asheville and Buncombe County,” Staudinger observes.

A housing-needs assessment prepared for the Asheville City Council in December by Bowen National Research found a 1 percent vacancy rate for multifamily rentals in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties. In Buncombe County, the vacancy rate is less than 1 percent.

Then there’s the income factor. Housing is generally considered affordable if the residents spend less than 30 percent of their gross income on it, says Staudinger.

The Bowen report notes that 44 percent of renter households within the study area are cost-burdened (paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing), and another 21 percent are severely cost-burdened (paying more than 50 percent).

So what can we, as a community, do about it? To solicit ideas and stimulate dialogue, Xpress asked residents representing a range of perspectives to briefly respond to the following question: “What would it take to solve the Asheville area’s affordable housing problem?”

We got back a range of thought-provoking essays by nonprofit leaders, government officials, builders and people who’ve struggled to find affordable housing.

In this first of three parts, six writers offer their views on what needs to be done. Here are links to those essays (updated as they are published online):

Affordable housing is everybody’s problem,” by Brian K. Alexander,
 Executive Director,
 Homeward Bound of WNC Inc.

“Helping children and families thrive,” by Greg Borom, Director of Advocacy, Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County

“No silver bullet,” by David Gantt,
 Buncombe County Board of Commissioners

“A complex problem,” by Boone Guyton, Co-owner, Cady and Guyton Construction

“Let’s face facts,” by Jane Hatley, WNC Regional Director, Self-Help Credit Union

“Collision course,” by Shannon Kauffman, Habitat homeowner




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