Letter: Are apartments in Asheville the real problem?

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Graphic by Lori Deaton

[In reference to the online post, “Stop and Go: Apartments Stall, Townhomes Get Green Light,” Nov. 9, Xpress:] Wow, I can’t believe that he (James Wilson) would have to endure “a chorus of boos” for doing business with myself and our company solely for putting apartments in AVL. [Buncombe County Board of Adjustment member] James Wilson is one of the kindest and nicest people that I know, and he’s a land broker and a real estate investor. He’s also a great person with a wonderful family, perhaps the kindest person out there — and he had to stand there and take “boos” from the apartment protesters of his own city for investing in apartments?!? That’s so sad. Sorry, James.

I’m curious as to people’s motives for such actions. Asheville obviously has a housing shortage, and I’m not sure what the apartment protesters think the answer is to that problem. Is it houses that most can’t get a mortgage [for] due to such tough underwriting regulations? Is it that “affordable housing” requires subsidies that are extremely difficult to get and especially within the time frames allowed? Or perhaps, is it that with such demand for any housing, rentals of all sorts and product type are in such short supply that even the oldest and maintenance-deprived apartments are getting sky-high rental rates. And that’s mainly because people don’t have many housing options to [choose] from.

I hope the apartment protesters understand that without increasing supply while demand grows, then so will the price point in the rental rates. I really wish I had been at that meeting to see how some people can be so spiteful over “right by use” development. Asheville is growing, and people need a place to live, not to mention that growth in the county’s and city’s tax bases that could go toward the affordable housing fund; also, more units create downward pressure on rental rates for the older existing properties.

Also, the current infrastructure and lack of road safety in Asheville and Buncombe County seem so much more important than any new apartment project. Apartments simply don’t kill people, but an outdated and unsafe infrastructure system and lack of road safety do all the time. The road system really needs a new master plan.

I fully respect the opinions of the people of Asheville and the greater area. However, there’s a housing shortage there, and we’re helping ameliorate that situation with each new community. Growth has to come to Asheville and will continue. While a specific person has been quoted referring to our communities as “tacky,” I respectfully disagree, but she’s absolutely entitled to speak in such a distasteful manner. We all have rights in Asheville.

Sincerely,

— Nick Hathaway
Partner and director of development
Hathaway Development
Atlanta

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58 thoughts on “Letter: Are apartments in Asheville the real problem?

  1. luther blissett

    Mr Hathaway talks about “Asheville”, but he’s building his complexes: a) in the unincorporated county; b) off relatively low-traffic roads ; c) off plans designed to stay under thresholds for mandatory traffic surveys and other regulatory review.

    There’s an irony in the NIMBY protests here, but we’re not talking about the infilled exurbs of Dacula or Peachtree City or Cumming or elsewhere in the 8,000 square miles of metro Atlanta. So there’s also some chutzpah in Mr Hathaway’s attempt to blame the roads of unincorporated Buncombe County as being unsuitable for his cookie-cutter sprawlburb Atlanta complex. Why not build within (or at least closer to) the actual city?

    • luther blissett

      Or to put it another way: the “we” in Mr Hathaway’s final paragraph refers to himself, his company, and by extension, the apartment complex developers of Atlanta and Charlotte and Greenville and Raleigh who sniff around the area in search of cheap acreage and owners who are ready to sell. In that context, “we all have rights in Asheville” comes across more ominously.

    • Alan Ditmore

      Please build more Nick, we need more units if we are ever going to house the homeless, preferably many small units. Luther is full of it, and the roads are fine.

        • Alan Ditmore

          They are too smooth because they are repaved too often, which wastes money and encourages speeding.

  2. dyfed

    Good for Mr. Hathaway for engaging with his critics, but I don’t think he is going to gain much traction. It is obvious that lack of housing supply is at the root of the problem, but the only solution—massive expansion of high-density development—is opposed by the powerful blocs of existing wealthy homeowners that don’t want to see their property prices fall, and abetted by the unfortunate naïfs who believe this protectionism will somehow, inexplicably and spontaneously, produce ‘affordable housing.’

    Asheville will take its medicine eventually, but only at the cost of a walkable and livable downtown, as lack of space pushes more and more people who work in Asheville out of the city limits, increasing congestion, commute times and sprawl. And those who will be forced out first in the game of musical chairs that is the near-zero vacancy rate are the poor. The poor will always suffer.

    • Alan Ditmore

      Kudos dyfed, except I’m more hopeful than you that builders like Nick will put their money where their mouth is and ally with tenant voters against unit density limits, with campaign funds from builders and votes from tenants, YIMBYs can be a viable force against vile elitist sprawl, or the workers will have to commute from beyond the COUNTY, Canton and Fletcher, not just the city.

  3. Deplorable Infidel

    Great letter Mr. Hathaway and a special THANKS for recognizing the third world streets in this farce of a city! HOW did any competent city leadership ever let the streets get so bad all over ?

    …and ‘dyfed’…the poor are taken care of FAR better in this town than anywhere imaginable…the poor have it better here than anywhere and they know it, which is why they descend upon us … make it free and they will come!

    • Your name says it all

      How out of touch with reality can you get? The poor do not have it good in this town, and I don’t know how anyone could make such a claim except for being totally disconnected with the plight of the poor.

      • Lulz

        LOL so you’re saying in a town ran by leftist buffoons that the poor are like totally poor?

        • Alan Ditmore

          The people running the town are elite fascist who in baldfaced lie in claiming to be “progressive”.

      • Alan Ditmore

        The poor of Asheville have it worse than Almost anywhere thanks to the PINO fascist city council and their unit density limits. Just look at the huge achievement gap and long commutes, far worse than most cities, to see that council is doing exactly the opposite of what they claim. And the streets would be safer with far less maintenance since repaving makes them smooth, thus encouraging speeding. Potholes calm traffic and increase safety while saving money, which should go to housing instead!

        • Deplorable Infidel

          providing housing is NOT a function of our government.

          the ‘huge achievement gap’ is the result of incompetent government screwls and failed parents.

          • Alan Ditmore

            Government has no other function, so if it fails to provide housing then it should be destroyed completely, so it can’t prevent housing from being built.

  4. Daryl

    Quite simply, people need places to live. The housing stock here is in dire shape in both quality and availability, it’s only logical to build apartments to keep up with demand. The only people who seem to oppose this are NIMBYs or homeowners who basically shout “I got mine, screw you”.

    These are the same people who want to profit off short term rentals themselves while at the same time denouncing apartments.

    • luther blissett

      It is possible to support apartment building and also want those apartments to be built reasonably well in reasonably sensible locations. (Verde Vista off River Ridge is a good example; so are the apartments behind the south Asheville Earth Fare.) Dumping a cookie-cutter plan on random bits of Arden or Reynolds — or in this case, the unincorporated corridor between Woodfin and Weaverville — then expecting the county and NCDOT (and thus taxpayers) to deal with the externalities is not “keeping up with demand”. It turns out-of-town developers into de facto drivers of infrastructure demand, forcing the relevant authorities into reactive approaches instead of proactive ones.

      One reason why metro Atlanta has sprawled so grossly over the past 20 years is that developers dropped cookie-cutter subdivisions and apartment complexes on cheap farm land in outlying counties, demanded those counties and the state upgrade infrastructure to accommodate them, then shrugged and moved on to the next project even as the traffic backs up 50 miles from downtown.

      Since Mr Hathaway wants to plead his case, however clumsily, perhaps he can provide some transparency about his company’s plans here. Public records show the property is still titled to the revocable trust of its deceased owner, which presumably means its fate is in the hands of the estate’s heirs. Is a sale contingent on getting approval for those apartments, which would make those 20+ acres worth a lot more than the $342,500 assessed value?

      • luther blissett

        So when Mr Hathaway says “the road system really needs a new master plan”, is he going to tell the county which locations and parcels his company intends to build on for the next five years? You can’t have a master plan for road infrastructure if developers are going to pounce on whichever bits of land come up for sale cheaply, then expect the roads to be upgraded to support them.

        Externalities, externalities.

      • Alan Ditmore

        You are telling me Atlanta and it’s inner suburbs had no unit density or height limits? because if they did, then that was the cause of the sprawl! NOT developers!

        • luther blissett

          When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

          This spat displays everything that’s short-sighted and reckless about American residential development and urban growth. The current residents couch their opposition in terms of “protect[ing] our neighborhood, our investments and our property values” from renters. The developer presents himself as some kind of champion of affordable housing, when his company’s activities and comments on earlier projects suggest a low-margin business model of buying land on the cheap in piecemeal fashion with borrowed money, flipping it to a new owner as soon as possible, and moving on to the next project.

          (Say what you will about Rusty Pulliam’s transformation of south Asheville — and everybody has an opinion about that — but he’s driving on the same roads and in it for the long term.)

        • Deplorable Infidel

          its the MANY small towns that grew together around Atlanta…duh.

          • Alan Ditmore

            And if any ONE of those small towns had any unit density limit at any time, then that was the cause of Metro Atlanta’s sprawl and homelessness! NOT DEVELOPERS! that is unless some of the residents of the elite towns with unit density limits happened to be developers at work, however even if so, it was their conduct at home, not at work, that caused the sprawl and homelessness!

      • Richard

        Bravo, LB. The hypocrisy of Hathaway with his tearful concern for Asheville and its apartment deficit is laughable. Money talks and the profits in his pockets are his only motivation. The same goes for the Board of Adjustment who is filled with real estate brokers. Their only interest is in commissions from their paymasters, the real estate firms. The present system of Board of Adjustment approvals is rigged against commonsensical development of Buncombe County and for maximizing profits to vested interests. When will the County Commissioners finally get rid of these salesmen and put qualified professionals who understand the needs and character of Asheville?

    • Frank

      Over the past few years, I’ve seen many new apartment mega-communities built. However, as a renter myself, it’s not availability that’s been the problem. It’s been the affordability. I just checked half a dozen random properties and most one bedroom / one bath apartments are over $900 – with some nearing $1,100. I did find one community advertising one bedroom / one bath apartments for $850, but there were none available. Of course, there are cheaper options, if one doesn’t mind living in an unpleasant, poorly-crafted dwelling. There are many of those about the area, too.

      Unfortunately, there will never be a solution that makes everyone (or, even most) happy. Build more housing, then there will be complaints about the affordability, location, or traffic. Build cheaper or subsidized housing, then there will be complaints about the increase in crime that is common. Build closer to the city, then there will be complaints of insufficient parking or the loss of the beautiful mountain views. Build outside the city, then there will be complaints about the destruction of the land. Lure more people to the area, the traffic will get worse. Expand the roads and drivers will be frustrated by the construction. Plus, with almost certainty, the prices will continue to rise higher and faster than the income of the taxpayers.

      Admittedly (and, obviously), I’m a pessimist. But, I’m also hopeful that one of you smart readers will think of a solution. But, after decades of living in many different cities and states, I’ve seen this over-and-over again. To date, my “solution” has been to move elsewhere and find a smaller city not overly-plagued with these issues, but also knowing it’s likely only a matter of time.

      • Alan Ditmore

        The long term solution is to fund contraception INSTEAD OF ZONING! But the zoners and purveyors of other false “solutions” like conservation land, must be defeated so that contraception funding will be the only option left.

        • Jason

          I’m amazed how many single parents live in Asheville and are completely unsuitable to support or care for their children. Contraception is a necessity these days for people who do not have the mental capacity to make good decisions.

          • Alan Ditmore

            No parent has, or can, make a good decision. All are destroying the environment with their infinite environmental footprint while exploiting childless taxpayers with their school tax.

      • Enlightened Enigma

        the best solution is to prepare one’s self for the EVER INCREASING COST of LIVING in the REAL world!

        move to a real city where real people earn real incomes working at real jobs … that’s one solution…

      • Jason

        Sounds like you need to get a roommate if you are not able to support yourself. Asheville is full of adult children that have zero skills to offer the economy other than playing arts and crafts.

        • Frank

          Thanks for the reply, Jason. I’m not sure if your “adult children” comment was directed at me, but I’m on the wrong side of 50 and my salary is not the problem. As a single person, my earnings are above many two-income households that I know. But, that doesn’t mean I want to spend everything I earn. This is a mistake I see many people make. My car is paid-off, I have no credit card (or, other revolving) debt, I have two years of living expenses in cash, and I have a 401(k), a Traditional IRA, and a Roth IRA. So, I’m trying to do the right things. I also don’t have any kids. Salary increases are a bit low (2-3%) and haven’t happened every year. So, while I can’t control the income, I can pay attention to expenses. I pay $1,000 per month now for the place I rent. Could I pay more? Sure, but that would cut into my 401(k) contributions. Plus, I just don’t think the prices are justified for most rentals. Hopefully, I can endure another 10 years, as that’s when I hope to retire. I wish you the best.

          • Alan Ditmore

            You are right about debt, and there is NEVER any excuse for ANY government debt of any kind! and if no debt, Asheville has no reason to care or crow about it’s credit rating. However you are wrong about supply and price. Price is inherently a function of supply and therefore more apartments must reduce prices by NATURAL LAW! Nothing but monopoly (including government monopoly) can possibly stop supply from reducing price and therefore increasing affordability.

  5. Jason W

    No amount of high density apartments would ever drive Asheville median home prices back to around $100,000, or median rents back to $400 per month.

    • hauntedheadnc

      How would homelessness — which is what most would find without the housing authority — teach them that?

      • bsummers

        You missed his main point:

        “…outside of Asheville”

        Fred “Fisher” Caudle’s solution is that the City should encourage poor and/or homeless people to get the hell out of town.

        • Enlightened Enigma

          yep. encourage them to find real world solutions in a real world environment where good jobs are available and plentiful! 2+ million new jobs since the Trumpet call!

          • The Real World

            They’d rather whine, complain, screech, accuse, make-up false info and demand that hard-working, responsible people, like Frank posting here, fork over more tax money to send their way so they don’t HAVE to grow-up.

            That is precisely what doddering, old Bernie the Bolshevik told them they deserve. Like BS (could there be more perfect initials?) they lack a moral compass. A big problem.

          • luther blissett

            “they lack a moral compass”

            Yes, people who bought a big old house in Montford for $40,000 in the 80s when the median household income was around $25,000 are just more moral than people who show up today to see those houses valued at half a million upwards while median incomes are flat when you adjust for inflation. Don’t know exactly what they did to earn it, but it must be something.

          • The Real World

            Thanks for reminding me…..add to the list above — and the constant presentation of completely unrelated and false equivalencies (which provides a nice example of the broken compass).

            The Montford house comment above is apropos of nothing therefore needs no addressing.

          • luther blissett

            “Apropos of nothing” doesn’t mean “I have no answer so will bluster instead.”

          • Deplorable Infidel

            and those more moral people are absolutely LOVING the HIGH values of their Montford mansions…even as they are packed in between TWO major public housing projects … what a shame…

          • Alan Ditmore

            Clearly Montford needs a third housing project, financed by cutting police, if Montford is to reverse gentrification and regain low rent status.

          • Enlightened Enigma

            yeah, go meet with the Montford Homeowners Association and discuss that realistic goal with some property OWNERS.

          • Alan Ditmore

            I crowd out ho-moaners and make their home more affordable at THEIR EXPENSE! which I can do just by walking down Montford streets in a hoodie. I’m not about to talk to elitist cretin zoners like them!

          • Alan Ditmore

            A price hike that was caused by zoners like you Luther!

          • bsummers

            2+ million new jobs since the Trumpet call!

            Lordy, talk about Fake News!

    • Alan Ditmore

      How about 10 billion apartments? Who would pay 200K each then? that would add up to 2 quadrillion dollars. All of humanity doesn’t have that kind of money so prices would have to fall. It’s simple supply and demand.

  6. Mary

    Keep those apartment complexes coming!! Workers and student type people around here could stand a new place to live that offers FIRST AND LAST MONTH RENT FREE, FREE CABLE AND WI-FI, FREE WASHER AND DRYER, NO DEPOSIT, AND MOVE-IN READY. Developers keep up with their present pace and this too shall come to pass.

    • Frank

      Free this and free that…why do so many people today expect so much for free?

      • Enlightened Enigma

        yes, if one cannot afford to live here one must relocate to a place that IS affordable to THEM…at some point we cannot sustain the growing numbers of people who fail to earn their way in this world.

        • Alan Ditmore

          ONLY CONTRACEPTION FUNDING can control local growth! zoning will only cause homelessness. Plus we will have to house the whole city of Minneapolis and half of Chicago when they run out of heating oil.

    • Jason

      OR, how about your pay for all the services you want or need like an adult. Isn’t amazing how people always can afford to have cable and smart phones, but they can’t afford food for their children?

  7. Jay Reese

    Asheville already has a transportation master plan in place . The Asheville In Motion (AIM) plan sets out guidelines for developing a multimodal transportation plan focused on eliminating the need for an automobile. The City of Asheville supports and participates in regional transportation planning through the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), a partnership of 18 local governments in Buncombe, Haywood and Henderson Counties. Obviously road construction and maintenance lags far behind housing development. A good fix for that would be to make road construction profitable by charging drivers more to use the roads.

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