Letter: Young people can’t afford Asheville

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Asheville’s housing is completely unaffordable to those who wish to start a life here, with starting rent prices with utilities effectively starting at $1,200 within the metro area, and with median individual wages at roughly $30,000, it is simply impossible for young people to feasibly consider staying in Asheville as independent individuals.

The simple solution to this issue of housing prices would be to build new houses. Every person knows price equals supply and demand, so if there is high demand, such as in Asheville, to create affordable housing, there has to be an increase in supply.

It’s infuriating to see so many people complain about lack of affordable housing and then in the same conversation oppose new developments. We simply cannot have both. I’ve lived in Asheville for three years as a young person (in my 20s), and unless things change soon, I’ll leave this beautiful town soon for greener pastures, leaving this place to the retirees and snowbirds who can afford it.

— Jeremiah Blake


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14 thoughts on “Letter: Young people can’t afford Asheville

  1. MV

    Unfortunately, it’s far more complex than simple supply-side economics in a tourist town where many charming cottages and cabins-in-the-woods that might have been long-term rentals in the past are now AirBnBs, driven in part by the steady advertising for more and more tourists (mostly kind curious souls, I’m sure) which, in turn, brings more and more new people (young and retired, some wonderful, I’m sure) who are very understandably drawn to our lovely area. Building more housing is only one small part of the answer, but people must also understand some realities: many large developments being proposed now will take nearly a decade to complete; some developments might ruin much of what makes our area unique and lovely; even with more housing, it’s possible that Asheville will still be highly desirable and thus unaffordable in the future; and who knows what the future holds?

    Finally (and please don’t take this the wrong way or be offended), if I were a younger person hoping to live in an area like ours, I might keep my eyes and ears open for other wonderful as-yet-undiscovered-towns where I might like to live just in case the situation here does not improve.

  2. NIMBY

    But the traffic. But the historic neighborhood. But the… You get the point.

    Thank you for this letter. More people need to accept this important point.

  3. Mike R.

    It’s pretty much this way all over the US, especially in desirable cities/locations. So to that end, Asheville is not unique.
    Asheville does have the additional problem of a low wage structure, unlike other desirable cities. That contributes even more to the problem
    And then there is the topography of the mountains that makes it more difficult to find suitable lots to build on.

    I would caution however, that more housing built may not necessarily translate into lower rental and purchase prices as the cost of building has gone up significantly. This will translate into higher rents/prices.

    Asheville may be a cool/desirable place to live for young folk; however, my advice is to find a location to service your economic needs first and foremost. If you make your way in life and improve your financial situation, living in a cool/desirable area will always be available down the road.

  4. Robert

    “It’s infuriating to see so many people complain about lack of affordable housing and then in the same conversation oppose new developments. We simply cannot have both.”

    It’s also infuriating to hear and see so many clamor for Affordable Housing At Any Cost to the river, forests, and (as of now) not-awful traffic. Remember that many older people who live here now came here in their 20s and 30s (or earlier) when the place was unknown, run down, and affordable. Many of these people shaped Asheville it into what it is now, and so you can (or should) understand that they wish to retain some of what makes this area great and they might fight to preserve Quality Of Life. I might have liked to buy a place in Carmel, California 25 years ago, but I chose Asheville because it was affordable and because I had a deep connection to this area where I grew up…(I say this just to share another perspective)

    • luther blissett

      “Many of these people shaped Asheville it into what it is now,”

      Many of them did not. Unless you have a specific reason to take credit, maybe don’t take credit and count yourself lucky you were of an age to show up at the right time and go along for the ride.

      • Robert

        That’s why I said ‘many’ and not ‘most’ or ‘all’…and yes, I personally have done (and continue to do) much for this area.

  5. Lee

    While I empathize Jeremiah, the answer isn’t as easy as more housing. There’s tons of housing in DC, NY and LA, and it doesn’t make the city any more affordable to those starting out. Taking into account inflationary pressures on land, materials and labor, by the time the new housing is done here, it will be even less affordable than what’s here now. As one of the posters above mentioned, you’ll have to build equity in a house outside of Asheville, then leverage it to come into the Asheville market. I wish there was an easier answer for younger people starting out, but the market is too skewed towards developers and investors, with local governments bending to their whims and then patting themselves on the back for providing a handful of affordable units they’ve gotten developers to give them.

  6. Gordon 1820

    “Asheville for three years as a young person (in my 20s), and unless things change soon, I’ll leave this beautiful town soon for greener pastures, leaving this place to the retirees and snowbirds who can afford it.”

    There in lies one the biggest issues. ‘Greener pastures’. Current resdients are desperately trying to keep Asheville green, by keeping a tree canopy viable, and not erasing every mature tree to build large concrete highrises, many of which will not be affordable, just high end condos. All the affordability that is being done now is via the LUIG grants, which means no taxes will be paid to the City for those entire projects. A developer can put in 20 percent affordable units (which are not actually affordable) and get the entire project tax free for 20 years. How on earth is this City going to be able to afford to run, pay quality people to move here with no funds. As a young person without the benefit of the ‘family trust’ it is an unfortunate fact that you have to commute to cool places to enjoy them. And yes, like the previous writer pointed out, those that have space available would much rather rent it out for 300 a night, than 1000 a month. They can turn it on and off when they want, and have zero committments to a tenant.

  7. Mike

    A developer might put in 20 percent “affordable,” but that’s a relative term. I saw in the other paper that “affordable” is about 1150/month for a 2 income household at about 48k/ year. Sheesh, I’m sorry, but when that becomes 1600/month when you include utilities- yeah, I don’t see the planet where that’s affordable for “young people” just getting stared as wage earners and whom we NEED for hospitality, caregiver, and many other industries. They aren’t making anywhere near that 48k. Good luck everybody, we need it!

  8. rwd

    Yes …by all means search and seek out an alternative to Asheville !!! There are many who do not want unbridled growth within the city !!

  9. MV

    Life is filled with personal choices. If you cannot afford a Porsche, perhaps you buy a Mazda. If you can’t afford fancy restaurants, you discover the joy of cooking. If you cannot afford to live in Asheville, there are so many wonderful as-yet-undiscovered places. If I were young, I’d invest elsewhere. I’d give you a list of my top 5, but I’m keeping them secret as I might decide to leave Asheville myself.

  10. MV

    The writer of this letter has convinced me that I should no longer rent my home at an affordable price to young people who cannot afford to live here and who are ‘infuriated’ and don’t care about the destruction of forests or have any understanding of the bogus-ness of lame pleas for ‘affordable’ housing at any cost.

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