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