Use this opened door

[From, in response to the Nov. 7 cover story, “River [Blank] District,” about property and demographic changes in the area.]

The threat is that working studios for low-income working artists are being displaced because working studio space that is affordable to them is disappearing in the [River Arts] District. The issue is not whether higher-income property owners who own art galleries and other assets are coming or going in the district, or if higher-earning artists are coming or going. Let’s not interchange these vastly different groups of people and their vastly different economic worlds.

Here’s one reason why we shouldn’t: When new buyers overpay for property in the district by up to 100-percent over the appraised value, they get stuck. They have no wiggle room; they must jack up all prices they have control over, mainly the rent that artists pay for working studios. The artists lose. But so does the public because before the artists gets pushed out for not being able to pay the much-higher rent, their art goes up in price, usually beyond what the public will pay.

More affluent property and gallery owners in the district may not care so much about losing low-income working artist; perhaps they can get other artists. But prices will also rise for art displayed by new artists as long as rents are being jacked. So the public — the tourists — the lifeblood of Asheville — loses again.

But wait … there’s more.

If that property buyer who overpaid for their district building ends up belly-up financially, then the circle of losers widens to include their creditor and investors. The property buyers who overpay also open the door for the county to jack up taxes on them, sinking that property buyer deeper in their self-dug hole, as well as potentially sinking neighbors in the district.

This circle can feed on itself during recessions and periods of stingy economic growth. It was amazing how hard it was to describe this common problem at last month’s voters forum for candidates running for county commissioner. …

New Belgium opened the door wide as a blueprint for creative use of financial incentives justified by their economic contribution to the area. Low-income working artists need to mobilize themselves and use this opened door. To read the article and join the conversation, visit

— Comment by Avl Tao, Nov. 7.

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