Letter: The case for infill housing falls flat

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In his letter to the Mountain Xpress on May 15 [“Why Asheville Needs Infill Housing”], Andrew Paul supports rezoning Asheville neighborhoods for infill with a number of transparently erroneous arguments. They are predicated on the power that the words “affordable housing” have accrued as politicians and developers ally themselves with the language of caring wokeness.

Take the claim that allowing more infill will reduce rent and home prices. It sure would. As existing neighborhoods with Asheville’s iconic tree canopy and low population density became saturated — more crowded, hotter, busier and therefore less desirable — property values would definitely drop, diminishing, as Paul wrote, the “pricing power that landowners wield,” but not before developers had made some significant pocket change.

He goes on to devote an entire paragraph to the link between “high-value,” “exclusive” neighborhoods and “class- and race-based segregation.”

Yet the desire to maintain neighborhoods and green spaces has nothing to do with race, and assumptions about “class” are disrespectful at best. The diverse Burton Street neighborhood is an example, as I learned on a recent guided walking tour there. Infill typically impacts lower- and middle-income areas far more than upper-income neighborhoods.

A key element of the “moving chains” theory that Paul references to support this feel-good defense of rezoning to allow infill is based on the idea that older houses, primarily as rentals, become more affordable to successive waves of low-income households. Then, Paul omits, reinvestment declines as aging structures are poorly maintained, neglected and eventually demolished. We just saw that happen on Charlotte Street with the Killian property.

The issue of housing for low-income earners is a real problem, but crammed-in, cheap housing is not the answer. Destroying the lure of Asheville to tourists is not the answer, either.

Many service workers, teachers, nurses and others cannot afford Asheville housing prices because they are poorly paid. The “living wage” is not that. For a typical example, Applebee’s corporate earnings in 2023 were well above $800 million. How much of that did they share with our local chefs and servers? This is the elephant in the room.

— Sherrill Osborne Knight


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4 thoughts on “Letter: The case for infill housing falls flat

  1. WNC

    If you can’t afford to rent or buy in Asheville move a little farther out. With in a 30 minute drive of Asheville or less you will find cheaper rates.
    You’re welcome to live in tight space with other people on all four sides.
    If you want cheaper housing and high wages and less gang members and less terrorist have

    Open borders
    Contained borders

    Circle the correct answer.

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