Letter: How do we see Ashevilleans who need affordable housing?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The prevailing social contract — let corporations do what they will, and they will make us all rich — is looking increasingly threadbare. It was only ever built on the flimsiest of foundations — selective misreadings of discredited 18th- and 19th-century economic hypotheses.

Locally, it has failed to supply the affordable housing that is so desperately needed. Succeeding Councils have fallen under its spell — resulting in precious few affordable homes in exchange for gifts of our future tax payments to assorted legal entities set up solely to speculate in property.

So, what is to be done ? We can start the long journey by asking why the supply of these homes falls so far short of the demand.

So long as profit-driven property speculators are involved, we must face the fact that the beating heart of their business model is that there must always be a shortage; given the nature of housing as an asset, were supply and demand ever to match, the worth of their holdings would fall to zero — for evidence, look at Detroit and East Berlin. And the greater the shortfall, the greater the worth of their holdings.

On the demand side, look in the mirror. Paraphrasing JFK: Nothing just happens, it is made to happen. Demand for affordable housing is high because of the sum of our individual actions. As employers, we don’t pay high enough wages. As employees, we put up with this abuse for nonfinancial reasons and will struggle to work two or three jobs to survive. As commuters and tourists, we require that the infrastructure needs of a daytime population of 150,000 be funded by the 85,000 residents. As incomers, we choose Asheville, knowing that the city’s economy is wildly unbalanced. As residents, we stay even if we can’t afford a decent home.

City Council’s attempt to find ways to build hundreds of affordable homes on land they already own is, at least, a start. But thousands more are needed, and that larger problem could only be solved by a much larger effort. One that starts with a simple question: Do we see the people who need those homes as prey or as fellow human beings worthy of our support?

— Geoff Kemmish


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11 thoughts on “Letter: How do we see Ashevilleans who need affordable housing?

  1. Jay

    I’m a liberal at hearts, but regardless of how I dream the world to be; I’m fully aware that America is a capitalistic dog eat dog slave pool. I DONT think that people who can’t afford housing should be here. I can afford housing and that’s one of the reasons why am here … I’d never move to Beverly Hills know matter how much I’d like to be there, because there I can’t afford housing…

    • Jason W

      Beverly Hills was a planned community built by failed oilmen, who wanted to still make a profit off the land. Asheville is not. I don’t think the comparison is balanced.
      Also it’s a widely accepted opinion that Beverly Hills is for rich people. The same opinion is not valid, nor should be, for Asheville.

      • Jason

        Ok…BROOKLYN…. I love lobster; and I want to eat it every day… can’t afford to though…
        So I don’t… get it now?

  2. Enlightened Enigma

    When you factor in the abundant local supply of subsidized affordable housing , Asheville has more affordable housing per capita than any other city in NC! … It’s true.

  3. Observe

    “How do we see Ashevilleans who need affordable housing?” After the blood is drained out of them, do we see them at all? We? Naw…try “they.”

  4. jason

    I understand why renters are upset with finding affordable housing, but they also need to understand how much it costs to own a house. Mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc…add on 10-15% to make some kind of profit from renting, and you’re looking at $1200+/month for a 2 bedroom 1 bath house. This is not going to change. Plenty of people come to Asheville, find great jobs and buy homes. Many people need to take a long look in the mirror and make changes in their life to help their situation. Quit blaming Asheville and blame yourself. Now you can all flame me.

  5. NFB

    “Plenty of people come to Asheville, find great jobs”

    Great jobs? In Asheville?

    • Jason

      Yes, everyone I know who has moved to Asheville makes well over $70k. There are many great jobs in engineering, science and technology, computer science, etc…I’m sorry if somebody with a liberal arts degree from UNCA can’t make more than $8/hr. It’s not Asheville’s fault that somebody chose to take on debt and obtain a worthless degree with no job prospects in the future.

  6. OzarksRazor

    They (think of the Van Pattens from “Eight is Enough” every time you read or hear “they” from here on out in life. Its a bit of a gem to trudge through the otherwise mundane) don’t see them… its been Asheville’s modus operandi since the late 1990’s that I’ve witnessed.
    It wasn’t long ago that folks could live and work inside city limits while earning a modest income. It wasn’t long ago that there was a vibrant, working artist community downtown. It wasn’t long ago that you could rent or have a mortgage for less than $800. Yes, inside the city limits. Yes, without an advanced educational degree.
    Now? Its nearly impossible but isn’t unique to the Asheville area. But since we are talking about WNC, the homeless population is increasing at an alarming rate. I wonder how those people feel when people like E.E. enjoys saying that we have the most affordable housing per capita in the state or when the Js (Jasons, Jays, Joshs etc) spout “If you can’t afford it, don’t move here!” when many, if not most, of the struggling people I know are natives to WNC and make nowhere close to $70K annually.
    I am not a huge fan of HP, but here is a piece about it: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-homelessness-in-asheville-that-no-one-is-discussing_us_59c45b41e4b06ddf45f6cc90
    But, y’all go ahead and keep comparing our small city of less than 100K to places like Brooklyn, San Francisco and Denver because that makes so much sense *insert eye~roll emoji here* and clears up any misgivings of why/why our community is being pushed around by the barrel faster than a ‘frat bruh’ slamming his locally crafted, yet ridiculously overpriced IPA.
    Happy Holidaze

    • Lillian Warren

      Well said.
      The town was founded by greed. Greed is still a disease here.
      Land development ran the Cherokee out.
      I’m not surprised the ruling class and some commentators are oblivious.
      Asheville is the kind of town where class, money and meanest combine to make it a horrible place to be poor. If it isn’t happening to them, they don’t want to know. Selfishness is an art form here
      Being disabled here is hellish.

      I’ve just come to the conclusion that most people in Asheville wouldn’t know how to empathise with others even with training.

      I’m disabled because of criminal behavior of the rich.
      Tell me I’m wrong, and I’ll tell you of all the times I had to report this town for criminal behavior of the rich

      Hope the FBI never stops investigating this warped, hedonistic, phony town

  7. Jason Williams

    Asheville would be a sh!tty place if everyone who lived here made $70K and up per year.

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