Letter: Affordable housing bond is beyond optimistic

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The recent article on Buncombe County’s plans for spending $40 million to increase both affordable housing rental units and purchases for residents making less than the area median income is so optimistic that it is hard to believe that the commissioners even looked at how realistic their goals are [“Bonds on the Ballot: $70M for Land Conservation, Affordable Housing Up to Buncombe Voters,” Aug. 17, Xpress].

The article states that with $40 million in new tax revenue, the county hopes to add 1,500 to 1,800 affordable rental units, 800 units where the county assists residents in buying affordable units and additional money to assist renters to get needed repairs to 500 existing affordable units (I assume either owned by the housing authority or private landlords).

Using very simple math, you can see how unrealistic these goals are!

If the county assists the low-income buyer with $10,000 of assistance in order to purchase a home, then $10,000 x 800 = $8 million.

This leaves $32 million for rental units, and the county wants 1,500 to 1,800 rental units from this amount and money for repairs of existing units.

Thirty-two million dollars divided by 1,500 = $21,000 per unit of subsidy, which over 20 years only equals a little over $1,000 per year per unit.

This is not possible. There are no developers or builders or nonprofits that can build rental units with only a $21,000 subsidy for 20 years.

The city’s recently approved plan for 319 Biltmore will provide 65 affordable units after the city sells the land to the developer for $1. The city paid $5.3 million for the land and has invested more dollars in clearing the land and building access for Maple Crest affordable apartments. If you divide $5.3 million by 65 units, each unit is subsidized by the taxpayer for $81,000 per unit with the subsidy good for 30 years.

Land in the county will be cheaper, but building costs are fairly high throughout the area.

Perhaps the county can give voters more specific information on how they are going to be able to provide 1,500 to 1,800 affordable rental units, 800 purchase assistance vouchers for residents and provide dollars to rehab existing affordable units with $40 million as they are promising.

— Elizabeth Sterling


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4 thoughts on “Letter: Affordable housing bond is beyond optimistic

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Democrat non leaders have no math skills and too stupid to analyze.

  2. AndyPAvl

    From betterwithbonds.org:

    “ Having bond funds in place will greatly increase the ability to gather grants and funding partnerships from outside sources, and county leaders are committed to maximizing that outside funding to add to the bond funds. . . .

    “The county is focused on supporting projects that qualify for a national affordable housing tax credit program, which enables every dollar the county invests to leverage an additional $2 to our community to invest in affordable housing.”

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