Letter: Asheville’s future lies in investing in our kids

Graphic by Lori Deaton

We are not alone in our affordable housing crisis — nationally, for every 100 families that need one, there are 35 affordable homes available. Locally, one example will do: The most recent apartment complex built in the East End ended up with two supposedly affordable apartments out of a total of 163, while its website shows the lowest rent as $1,025 per month.

For a market zealot, the fact that demand exists that is not met by increased supply can only be the result of excessive regulation. But watching the Kabuki theater of property speculators, their lawyers, Council and its committees paints a different picture. Time and again the same sad tale plays out: The project can only be financed if we build more apartments in total but fewer affordable ones. Later there’s a tale of woe about how unexpected developments mean that they need to pack in yet more apartments and cut back even further on the affordable units. Council members profess to be heartbroken and approve whatever is put in front of them.

These performances have happened often enough that we can see some patterns.

We are near the end of a 10-year period when interest rates were zero for the privileged; unprecedentedly low for the rest of us. Now that interest rates are going up, hurdle rates for investments will rise in parallel — and fewer projects will be able to meet them. So if Council believes what we have now is a crisis, their vocabulary is going to be sorely tested by the situation in five or 10 years’ time.

“Unexpected developments” afflict amateurs. Professionals understand and hedge their risks, either financially or in their project design.

Suppose Council had enforced its own ordinances and rejected these deficient projects. What would we have lost? Very few affordable homes — they’re not getting built. Lots of homes for rich folk, whose cars and trucks clog up our streets. And lots of apartments — cough, cough — on Airbnb.

If a project falls short of its commitments, its managers have broken their contract with us, but it’s probably unrealistic to expect the city to police violations of the Unified Development Ordinances with the same vigor as violations of Section 19-85 for jaywalking. Simply repaying cash incentives received from the city is not enough: By then, the project has left noncompliant buildings as a giant middle finger in our midst for years to come. At the very least, anyone connected with it should be made to understand that they will not receive any further financial aid funded by our taxes.

Even if they included 50 affordable homes each — rather than two — it would take 100 projects to clear the 2014 estimate of our backlog. It’s time to stop sleepwalking into the future and accept that asking greed-driven property speculators to solve this crisis for us will never work. The way forward starts with understanding that the sugar high of property speculation and the accompanying trickle-down lies are not the answer: Up-skilling our kids is. Our future needs to be based on much more than just new buildings — jobs need to be created that pay well enough that the demand for affordable homes falls. And that begins with investing in public libraries, schools and out-of-school programs for our kids — and ourselves.

— Geoff Kemmish


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8 thoughts on “Letter: Asheville’s future lies in investing in our kids

  1. boatrocker

    Cue the right wing hate in 3..2…1…
    “Screwls/evolution/elitists/communist/overpaid teachers”

    Guess who is going to run the world in about 20 years?
    Yep. The mighty kids who walked out of school for protesting the NRA.
    Their music sucks but their beliefs rock.

    • Lulz

      LOL and yet the schools are failing even though per capita spending on US students is the highest in the world. It ain’t hate, is realizing the system is a failure. All we hear about from the LIEberals is self driving cars, technology this, blah, blah, blah that. And yet we never hear a peep of modern schools becoming obsolete. The carbon emissions of the buses much less the cars isn’t an issue of course. Nor is the complete and utter incompetence of some teachers who are sheltered instead of being driven out. When it’s impossible to fire them for producing bad results in kids, then you fail the kids. Tossing money at it had done what? Made the system a bigger joke then it already is.

      As far as the 2nd is concerned, the NRA is composed up of 5 million gun owners. How many times have the cops been called to their houses? And yet Cruz was well known by the state. Another failure of the same system that fails in teaching kids civics.

      • boatrocker

        Woo hoo!
        Lulz took the bait and teachers suck!
        You did forget to call them screwls-
        Maybe next post?

        And PS, your grammar leaves a bit to desired.
        And PS PS this teacher teaches civics.

      • luther blissett

        Incoherent. Though maybe you can share with us your idea of what the future of schools looks like, instead of simply railing against the status quo.

        • boatrocker

          I second that emotion.
          And wonder about anyone who reviles one of the most important
          professions in the world. Yikes.

  2. jason

    Perhaps the people who think it’s the responsibility of developers and entrepreneurs to spend their money and build housing for poor people should get off their rear ends and build apartments for low income poor people. There is absolutely NO reason why somebody should invest their own money into a project and be forced to essentially give away some charity apartments.

    • luther blissett

      “There is absolutely NO reason why somebody should invest their own money into a project and be forced to essentially give away some charity apartments.”

      Correct. (Aside from the mechanics: developers use other people’s money.) This is why taxpayer money should be spent on public housing that is not subject to the short-term priorities of developers or their investors, instead of on a Housing Trust Fund that is driven by those priorities.

  3. Enlightened Enigma

    Is $850 for a studio and $1150 for a one bedroom apt, INCLUDING ALL UTILITIES, affordable ? I say yes.

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