Mountain Xpress recently asked the question, “Has Asheville’s development over the last year helped or hurt you, and how so?” [“Year in Review: Residents and Local Leaders Reflect on Asheville’s Growth and Tourism,” Dec. 22]. It helped me because I’ll soon have a place to live in a brand-new house. Here’s “A Housing Story” for you, Asheville.
I left Asheville in 2004 and moved back in fall 2019, so I had Rip van Winkle moments coming back. I lived near Sunny Point Café when it opened in 2003 and paid $650/month for a house around the corner. When I moved back, I paid $1,530/month for another rental house in West Asheville. In spring 2020, our landlords considered selling the house, so I got a real estate agent and started looking at places for sale in early summer 2020. We wanted to stay in West Asheville, but after looking at the housing stock, I joked that everything was “Expensive Garbage” — over $300,000 for fixer-uppers.
So, what do you do when you can’t find housing for your budget and tastes? You build a house, and my process started in summer 2020. We met a builder who already had a site with other houses planned on it. But by fall 2020, we and the builder grew tired of unclear direction from city staff. They went back and forth on a retaining wall for a private street extension, plus the number of houses allowed along a street frontage.
That was Plan A, so we moved on to Plan B, a vacant lot literally down the street. It had a sewer line easement on it (no big deal) but also had stormwater pipes of unknown origin. “No thanks,” we said. We then scoured real estate listings for vacant lots — “Hey, here’s one right off Brevard Road!” We called our builder and visited the site, Plan C. As soon as we stepped on the lot, a guy came out of the neighboring house with a shotgun-in-hand walk and sternly said, “I have a verbal contract to buy this lot.” We noted the real estate sign in the yard, but the guy was adamant about buying the lot.
“I know another site nearby,” said our builder. So, we went down the hill to Plan D. By January 2021, we signed our construction loan, and site work started in March. Our landlords sold the house we’d been living in, so we moved to another rental house in April, waiting on construction of Plan D.
Plan D should be ready for move-in sometime in February 2022, when we’ll be moving into a new, 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath house for less than $368,000. Housing affordability is a real issue in Asheville, so “Asheville’s development in 2021” helped me secure a home of my own.
So, looking for a home? Consider building your own — it’s good development that helps you and increases the city’s housing supply, a key element for improving housing affordability. If you see a porch sign reading “Plan D,” give a wave!
— Scott Adams
Scott Adams is an urban planner who holds certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners and is a member of the city of Asheville’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. If you, too, have a personal story to share that connects with a local issue facing our community, let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org.