Editor’s note: This essay is part of a series in which local experts were asked: “What would it take to solve the Asheville area’s affordable housing problem?”
Our community is facing a crisis. According to a recent study, Buncombe County has an effective zero percent vacancy rate for rental housing. Here at Homeward Bound, we’ve certainly noticed this trend. Every day, our case managers work to find safe, affordable places for our clients to live. Now, however, we simply cannot find those homes.
This situation puts the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable members at risk. Living on the streets for long periods of time exacerbates chronic behavioral and physical health issues that often lead to premature death.
But the lack of affordable housing doesn’t just affect the most vulnerable. Affordable housing is vital for the homeless veterans who served our country in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the police and firefighters who make our community safe. It’s for the waiter who served you dinner last night, for the small-business owner who sold you a beautiful painting last week, for the nurse who took care of your mother in the hospital.
And while you may not believe that you can make a difference in this conversation or be effective in increasing the amount of affordable housing in our community, you can! We need you to advocate for more affordable housing, so that all of our neighbors have safe, affordable places to live. If you know people who own rental properties, encourage them to work with Homeward Bound and other service providers. Talk to your neighbors, and convince them that adding affordable housing units to your neighborhood can make it richer and more diverse.
You can make a difference!
— Brian K. Alexander
Homeward Bound of WNC Inc.