Letter: The big picture of being priced out of Asheville

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As a longtime (23 years) city of Asheville resident who finally threw in the towel and is in the process of moving, I appreciate your running letters in recent months from longtime residents expressing dismay over the changes Asheville has been undergoing in recent years. Not that any of the developers or monied millennials and retirees who have completely and irrevocably altered the area’s character will either notice or care.

The “housing boom” that has upended Asheville is the inevitable outcome of the same economic policies that have created historically unprecedented income inequality in this country — specifically the relentless tax cuts granted the rich since 1980. The people who have taken over Asheville — the slim and silver-haired retirees and their skinny-jeaned and tastefully tattooed millennial children — are, by and large, the generally oblivious beneficiaries of the giveaways begun under Reagan and either upheld or exacerbated by every subsequent president.

There are today over 20 million millionaires in the United States, representing over 10% of U.S. households, according to Credit Suisse. The overwhelming percentage of these mostly nouveau millionaires “earn” their money via financial transactions, a process I’ve seen described as “sleep capital.” (The rich get richer without doing anything at all except being rich.)

While it’s no consolation to the priced-out (like me), it is worth noting that what is happening to Asheville is happening everywhere in the U.S. that is — or at least was until recently — desirable. An opinion piece in The New York Times on July 13 — “Here’s Who Will Be Left Behind in the Housing Boom” — sums things up pretty well. (Spoiler alert: The answer to the question is everyone who’s not already rich.)

— Don Howland
ex-West Asheville


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8 thoughts on “Letter: The big picture of being priced out of Asheville

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    uh, that is not very many millionaires per capita of the total US population…but millionaires today are not always millionaires tomorrow … remember that.

    • Curious

      I’m curious as to how the letter writer defines millionaire. Is it someone with assets of 1 million? In which case, many people who live modest lives might qualify, given pensions and 401ks. Or is it someone with an annual income of 1 million?

  2. Lou

    Nicely said and cannot think of a thing to add. I fear I won’t last much longer either. Hanging out a few more years for the grandbabies…then I am OUT.
    Good luck Don.

  3. Mike

    Maybe try playing the game and applying yourself and you can also one day be “rich”, alternatively you can blame your problems on everyone but yourself and wonder why you are so unhappy.

  4. William

    What was even the point of this letter? Seems like you’re just complaining about the changing times. Change is inevitable, deal with it.

  5. Keith McBee

    I am one of those retirees, and I am very sorry for my part in destroying Asheville as it was. The development in which I live was built 20 years ago on what was once farmland. It was here before I arrived. The problem is not the people. It is the system, which refuses to put any but the mildest restraints on private property and development. The people of Asheville do not get to vote on whether or not their city should become Miami in the Mountains. The major property owners and developers make those decisions.

  6. kw

    Being ‘priced out’ is one thing and really out of our control as it’s a supply-side economics market issue. As much as I wish there were more affordable housing, the truth is that those who cannot afford to buy a home here should consider finding the next Asheville.

    But one thing we can control relates to having local commissioners who disregard the health and public safety of those who choose to live here. Just recently we’ve learned that the Town of Woodfin has been operating illegally for years. Is it due to bad leadership or simply incompetence? At this point, it’s unclear.

    Remember to attend Town Commissioner meetings (next one in Woodfin on August 17th) and vote in local elections. Three incumbent Woodfin commissioners who have been complicit in wrongdoing since 2009 are up for election this November.

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