The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners resolution to dedicate property-tax revenue for affordable housing as would be assessed for the proposed Ellington project over the next 10 years is prematurely ahead of City Council approval and an apparent strategic ploy to influence City Council’s vote to approve The Ellington, improperly tampering with the city’s quasi-judicial process. Even if The Ellington is approved by City Council, the Board’s resolution amounts to a feeble $425,000 annually, allowing only two affordable housing units to be built per year, or less, with rising construction costs.
A much more viable and effective proposal has been presented to City Council based on selling city airspace to The Ellington’s developers, for space used over and above the 215-foot height of the BB&T building, at $80,000 per linear foot, to be paid to the city upon the approval of The Ellington [and used] exclusively for workforce housing. The 305-foot-tall Ellington would pay $7.2 million for city airspace rights, allowing the immediate construction of 30-40 acutely needed affordable housing units.
The $7.2 million airspace price tag needs to be put in the context of projected revenues from the 125-room hotel over a 75-year period: $1.1 billion (that’s billion), not including the sale of the condos estimated at $75 to 80 million—making the sale of airspace rights miniscule and an appropriate, fair method for financing workforce housing, in addition to the Ellington’s 1.5 percent contribution based on condo sales.
The Buncombe County Board resolution uses citizen property taxes to finance its own public good, allowing The Ellington developers to be unjustly enriched. I use “unjustly enriched” as a legal term, with legal consequences.
The proposed Ellington will pay little more than minimum wages to most of its employees, making The Ellington itself a perpetrator of workers’ inability to afford basic housing, and therefore having to use citizen property-tax money to essentially supplement The Ellington’s low wages—[a plan that] is morally and disgracefully wrong.
Had the Board of Commissioners applied its resolution to all city and county commercial development, and not just singularly to The Ellington, there would not be the obvious appearance of baiting the City Council to approve The Ellington, irrespective of problems caused to the city by its massive scale.
— Robert Malkin
Asheville Citizen Voices