A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog about a ground-breaking ceremony in Pritchard Park. The blog talked about four units of affordable housing being put into the Park at taxpayer expense. Apparently some folks didn’t pick up on the idea that it was an April Fools Joke of mine. Some even called the Parks Department and demanded to know what was going on. Guess some people just take life too seriously.
The other day I was passing by the park on my way to Green Sage, Firestorm Café or somewhere — I’m sure to just get a cup of coffee and check email. I noticed someone had put up three units of affordable housing in the park. The type of housing? Bird Houses. For some reason it struck me as funny. Less than two full weeks after my blog about affordable housing coming to the premier park in the city, someone puts up bird housing.
But my thoughts didn’t stop there.
I got to wondering about the affordable housing issue here in Asheville — didn’t take me long to wonder as there’s not much affordable housing in the area. But what exactly is affordable housing? I’ve got a friend out in east Asheville that just bought a house for several hundred thousand dollars and she paid cash for it. Obviously it’s affordable to her.
So what really is affordable housing? According to Mr. Wikipedia, affordable housing “is a term used to describe dwelling units whose total housing costs are deemed ‘affordable’ to those that have a median income.”
Make sense? No? Well, go back and read that sentence again. I’ll get me a cup of coffee and a Nicorette lozenge while you do.
Going to www.City-Data.com we find that the median income for Asheville and Buncombe County in 2009 (the latest year for which figures are available) was $34,400.00. My real estate friends tell me that a rule of thumb in determining how much monthly payment (or rent) a household can afford is to find out what is 28% of their annual income. Using the 2009 figure of $34,400.00 as a starting point, 28% of that is $9,632. Divide that by 12, and you get $802.00. So another way of looking at this is a person can afford to rent a place costing $802 a month … if their household income is at least $34,400 AND IF they don’t have any other debts such as a car payment, a phone payment, insurance or ever want to be able to take a vacation.
Being the great planner and idea guy that I am, I’ve got several ideas on how we can create more affordable housing. But since Gordon Smith and the City Council won’t like my ideas and neither will David Gantt and the folks on the County Commission, I guess more of us will have to start living in birdhouses.