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