Intelligent urban development, affordable housing could benefit Asheville’s economy

Asheville used to be a well-kept secret, but sometime in the past decade that changed. The secret is out, and people from across the country are moving here. More people bring benefits but also creates serious urban issues that can impact negatively on our quality of life. Suburban sprawl, more cars on roads not designed for the traffic, and higher housing prices are all issues Asheville faces for the foreseeable future.

For example, the median price of a home in Asheville requires a salary of around $53,000 a year. Police officers, firefighters, and teachers often don’t make enough to live here. Instead, they live outside Asheville and drive to work. Living within seven miles of downtown Asheville could save these people almost $5,000 a year, or about $400 a month.

A new study released by UNC Chapel Hill’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies confirms these problems and presents remedial suggestions [see “Close to Home,” June 30 Xpress]. Asheville needs to increase urban density and demand that developers create more affordable housing. In addition to making it possible for the people who work in Asheville to live in Asheville, [achieving] these goals will drive economic development. The more urban density, the easier it is for a developer to create affordable housing. The more affordable housing is, the more money families can spend on other things. Everyone benefits.

Growth must not be stopped, but can be controlled so the qualities that make Asheville great are preserved and enhanced, not destroyed. We have to start now, though. A wait-and-see approach will not work, because the longer we wait, the worse things will get: more traffic, more pollution, more sprawl, higher housing costs. If the city can get ahead of the curve on these issues, Asheville and the entire region can become a better place to live.

This issue demands urgency [and] broad community support, including [the] political organizations and nonprofits whose clients are impacted. Movement, action, organization, coalition building, young people with leadership roles — the time is now, as the issue deeply affects our community. Delay and scattered talking will not service this critical community need.

— Curry First
Asheville

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4 thoughts on “Intelligent urban development, affordable housing could benefit Asheville’s economy

  1. J

    What I thought was particularly interesting about that study, and a similar one done for the City of Asheville not too long ago, was I failed to see a mention of direct assistance to renters/buyers. Going with Ockham’s razor, it would seem to make more sense to loan/give money to people with jobs to help them make their payments.

    Call me cynical, but considering a developer “sponsored” the UNC study, and the study’s conclusion was that we need to build more – I have my doubts about what that study’s conclusion. Why build a Rube Goldberg device to solve a simple problem?

  2. Nancy

    I know of no one who disagrees that decent housing should be affordable. However, to those who keep sounding the alarm in the press and among local government, the only definition of and therefore solution to ‘affordable housing’ is over-crowded new construction. I haven’t seen anyone address the availability of a growing number of rental vacancies whose rents have continued to adjust downward as the market demands, and plummeting home prices (average is down 30% from 2007), and the truly environmentally-sound solution of their adaptive re-use. Simply put: invest in what we have before spending extra money and destroying any more land and neighborhoods to build more.

    First writes, “For example, the median price of a home in Asheville requires a salary of around $53,000 a year.” At the same time, the affordable housing developer claims that the median income in Buncombe Co. is currently $55,700. When you do the math, it appears our city is not in the midst of a pervasive ‘low wage-high housing cost’ crisis that warrants daily postings, letters and editorials, all coincidentally using the identical ‘urban density – suburban sprawl – transit corridor’ lingo to make their case.

    This writer, and the other density development proponents, refer to three professional classes, ‘police officers, firefighters and teachers,’ whose salaries don’t support local housing affordability. Yesterday’s C-T editorial claimed that NONE of these professionals can currently afford to live in Asheville. For that to be true, every single police officer, firefighter and teacher in the city must be entry-level, all are attempting to live in housing that costs at or above the median [recall the definition of ‘median’], and none shares living costs with a partner, spouse or roommate. The data simply doesn’t bear that out.

    There are real problems, no doubt, but let’s be honest, and from there, find real solutions that serve the best interests of neighborhoods, taxpayers, and the workforce. It can be done, but not by promoting overcrowding and new construction as the only answer.

  3. Build Density

    Silly public, after the vote on July 27th we will finally get to build whatever we want, wherever we want without the silly public input. We all know that Asheville will only be great when we can build more and much larger structures so we can be like Atlanta and New York. Good thing this City Council knows that bigger is better and only by building to overshadow all this stupid existing architecture and neighborhood infrastructure will we survive. Hooray for City Council passing the “right to build bigger” act or whatever it is called on July 27th. It will go in place fast since no one else really knows what it is or that it is coming. Build it big enough to tip the earth, screw this “neighborhood character” defense. Build them 100 stories or more, ANYWHERE and screw the NIMBY’s! Put workforce housing on EVERY block and make this city really great, they cannot stop this! We will develope every square inch of this city and make it affordable for EVERYONE !

  4. Build Density

    Gordon Smith
    July 13th, 2010 at 12:05 am
    The Planning and Zoning Committee will meet on July 22nd at 4pm at City Hall to consider alteration in the UDO to allow for increased density on corridors and in neighborhoods.

    Please attend and offer your input!

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