Letter: Why do we need to reduce open space in Asheville?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

On Jan. 27, I listened in on the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods meeting, hearing the presentation of Mr. Vaidila Satvika about the Open Space Amendment. One of the members of CAN asked, “Why do we need to reduce open space?” Good question. Mr. Satvika’s answer was something to the effect of, “We need more affordable housing.”

What is really “affordable”?

Today, in Asheville, the average annual salary for an individual is $38,424. The Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as the dollars spent for housing being no more than 30% of gross income. That comes to $960 per month. Where is the $960 per month housing?  Not in Asheville.  Today, the average rent in Asheville for a one-bedroom is around $1,500 and for a two-bedroom is over $1,800. The reality is that people spend more on housing here than the HUD definition of affordable. This means that people earning average wages cannot afford to live here under normal circumstances.

Do we really believe that reducing open space in order to build more units per development will actually produce more affordable housing?  Do we really believe that a new development will have units that are affordable? I don’t.

Furthermore, with other incentives within this amendment and ordinance, such as “fee in lieu” payment, it offers the developers other ways of paying their way out of providing affordable housing.

In addition, I’m sure we realize that when a developer builds nearby, your property value frequently goes up (as does your tax bill along with it). Landlords raise rents to compensate for the increased expenses, and the cost of housing continues to skyrocket for everyone.

I believe this open space reduction change is driven by greed.  Developers are coming here intent on building on every available bit of the land, then likely leave their mess. That means that Asheville continues to deal with the resulting social and infrastructure issues. Is the open space reduction going to fix the expensive housing issue? Will it not actually add to other urgent problems facing Asheville?

Please contact City Council and tell them why they should vote “no” on the Open Space Amendment. You can contact all City Council members with one email at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.

— Victoria Williamson


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10 thoughts on “Letter: Why do we need to reduce open space in Asheville?

  1. Cecil Bothwell

    Yep. Development interests are running the table in Asheville.

  2. NIMBY

    “I believe this open space reduction change is driven by greed. Developers are coming here intent on building on every available bit of the land, then likely leave their mess.”

    I think you may have oversimplified the problem. Without more development, the $1,500 a month you mentioned will continue to grow. Demand is not going down, it’s growing, so supply must also grow if we hope to stabilize prices.

    You may not be wrong about new development being “affordable” around $1,000 per month, but more units means more supply. At some point we can’t just say “No” to everything. Density is critical, even at the market rate

    • JT4784

      More units has absolutely nothing to do with affordability. Developers know that. Apparently this city hasn’t figured it out . Developers want to build only top market rate housing, as that’s where the highest profit per SQ ft is. They have to be severely reigned in by government, or they’ll gladly destroy our quality of life for a quick buck. They could not care less about the future.

      • NIMBY

        You’re right. Supply and demand is a farce.
        “Build a wall, build it tall”, or something like that, right?

  3. Robert

    If City leaders aren’t careful, they might so irrevocably ruin what we have that even tourists won’t want to be here.

  4. WNC

    If you support open borders and want more green and open space maybe some thought is needed.

  5. kw

    Great cities are like great pieces of music. It’s the space between the notes…

  6. MV

    Affordable Housing is largely a GRIFT to make rich white men even richer while keeping lower income folks from ever owning a home. Tell local officials to have some real vision. Save some urban forests and stop trading our quality of life for trinkets and beads.

  7. Gordon 1820

    Nothing in the Open Space reduction actually requires a developer to build anything affordable, even at the City deemed affordable rates. Council needs to vote no, City needs to amend this to take out developer demands.

  8. Robert

    One of the members of CAN asked, “Why do we need to reduce open space?” Good question. Mr. Satvika’s answer was something to the effect of, “We need more affordable housing.”

    So this is a serious problem, and Mr. Satvika should likely be fired. Reason: if “We need more affordable housing” is the flippant dismissive go-to response to every citizen’s concern (traffic, health and safety, or even being invaded by Russians), how can we have any reasonable public discourse? How can we safeguard communities and our children’s future? What’s the end game of jamming people into less livable space? At what point will too much be too much?

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