Letter writer: Asheville’s growth is not inevitable

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In the period spanning 2012-13, 6,000 people migrated to Asheville. The law of supply and demand — not so much a law as a comment on how few developers and homeowners would accept anything less then maximum profit from the sale of their homes — dictates that housing prices will go up. The solutions to this problem put forth in Mountain Xpress’ three-part series on affordable housing range from a living wage to increased density to student labor. That Asheville will grow is undisputed.

In reality, growth is not inevitable. There are many ways to limit growth while simultaneously creating and preserving affordable housing. Zoning to limit development, while requiring developers to include a minimum percentage of affordable units is one possibility.

An article in the Jan. 30, 2015, Asheville Citizen-Times, using Census data, put Buncombe County’s population at 300,000 by 2030. Just how big do we want Asheville to get?

— Steve Rosenthal
Asheville

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5 thoughts on “Letter writer: Asheville’s growth is not inevitable

  1. C

    The letter offers .”a comment on how few developers and homeowners would accept anything less then maximum profit from the sale of their homes>’
    Why would a homeowner seek a lower profit on the sale of his/her home than the best offer he/she can get?

  2. orulz

    Zoning to restrict density while at the same time requiring affordable housing leaves an ever-widening middle class doughnut hole at the center. Income-restricted housing is sold or leased to, you guessed it, families with lower income (ie, <80%). Of course there will ALWAYS be a waiting list for this housing; there will never be enough of it to meet demand. Plus, the cost of building this housing means the market-rate components of any development have to get more expensive to balance it out, meaning that to afford market rate housing you might need to make like 150% of the area's average income can afford it. The higher prices mean fewer people can afford or want to live here, sure, so I guess that meets your first goal of slowing growth, but the cost is great.

    As long as there is demand, and not enough supply, prices will continue to go up; there will never be enough low-income housing to fill the gap.

    Washington DC has actually seen a leveling and slight drop in rents lately. Why? Developers have been building like mad, while simultaneously not as many people have been moving there since the sequester hit the area's job market, leading to a balancing of the supply-and-demand curve.

    People have to realize that the dual notions (both of which are most frequently held by progressives) of slow growth/preservation, and affordable housing, are diametrically opposed and cannot coexist. Others including the Mountain X have long pointed this out. Asheville’s local politics are pretty well dominated by at least moderate progressives, but even among the progressives we are likely to see this become probably the defining issue in city politics for the decades to come.

    So, growth is not inevitable, you’re right, but the only way to stop growth without making prices go up would be to consciously and intentionally make the area unlivable. Maybe we should think about persuading the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Dump to set up shop inside Beaucatcher Mountain instead. I think that would do the trick quite nicely.

  3. Gary W

    “There are many ways to limit growth while simultaneously creating and preserving affordable housing. Zoning to limit development, while requiring developers to include a minimum percentage of affordable units is one possibility.”

    The writer’s suggestion is extremely shortsighted at best. More restrictive zoning would only exasperate the issue by further reducing supply resulting in significant increased development and land cost. It would be unrealistic to ask a developer to take a loss for the sake of affordable housing using this logic or scenario.

    Also the restrictive zoning was tried before and only resulted in the population moving to periphery of the city, while continuing to use the infrastructure but not sharing in the cost to maintain it. Again another proposal yielding undesirable outcomes or unintended consequences.

    Growth is happening and will continue in the foreseeable future. Our best option is to plan for it and seek a realistic balance. The cost of city services will continue increase, why shouldn’t more people participate in sharing that cost?

  4. NFB

    A quick Google search indicates that the writer of this letter moved to Asheville three years ago. The growth he is complaining about is happening because other people are doing what he has done — moving to Asheville, yet he seems to think that now that he is here it is time to put limits on who can do this.

    Growth is happening in Asheville because people want to live here. The proposals in this letter won’t stop that. What they will do is drive up housing costs even further so that the uber wealthy will be the only ones who can afford to live here and then you can say goodbye the the artists. The letter writer closes his letter by asking the question “just how big do we want Asheville to get?” Perhaps he should have asked himself that question before being a part of the growth he now is upset about.

  5. ONLY municipal contraception funding can limit growth. Growth is not a land use issue. The crisis is one of total housing supply; not enough units. and it is caused by the UDO, with its single family zoning, unit density limits, residential height limits, setbacks, and parking requirements. Reversing the crisis will require the total defeat of all neighborhood activists.

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