Government Accountability Project Asheville

The Asheville City Council meets this Tuesday, December 12, 2023 at 5 pm. You can attend the meeting on the 2nd Floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting online at this link.The full agenda for the formal meeting is here.

URGENT

  • 0 Items

PROBLEMATIC

  • 3 Items

CONCERNS

  • 0 Items

POSITIVE

  • 2 Items

EMAIL TEMPLATES

Use our prepared email templates to take action on this week’s items.

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RED:

Things that seem problematic

Community Reparations Commission’s request for an eight-month extension of their timeline

The Community Reparations Commission (CRC) voted in November to formally ask the City and County for an eight-month extension of their timeline. To complete their work successfully and with full integrity, they have requested that the deadline for their final recommendations be extended from April to December 2024. City and County staff have suggested that a shorter two-month extension should be adopted instead. The Chair of the Community Reparations Commission, Dr. Dwight Mullen, will address this matter in a presentation before City Council on Tuesday, December 12. It’s not clear if the County Commission will extend a similar invitation to hear from Dr. Mullen at their next formal meeting on January 2, 2024.

There is a long list of reasons why the Reparations Commission needs more time than was originally allotted to them – we encourage you to review the summary on the Racial Justice Coalition (RJC) website. We don’t know why City and County staff are pushing a shorter extension – they claim to have a “workable plan” to wrap up the Commission’s work this summer, but have so far offered no details on that plan. We think the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission should trust the judgment of the Reparations Commissioners they appointed, and approve the extension they are asking for.

Things to do

Write to the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission and ask them to approve the extended timeline request from the Community Reparations Commission.

The RJC has a template you can use to contact the Asheville City Council.

We have prepared an email template for outreach to the Buncombe County Commission. You can (a) use our County Commission template link to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to brownie.newman@buncombecounty.org, jasmine.beach-ferrara@buncombecounty.org, alfred.whitesides@buncombecounty.org, amanda.edwards@buncombecounty.org, terri.wells@buncombecounty.org, martin.moore@buncombecounty.org, parker.sloan@buncombecounty.org

Asheville City Council Agenda – Public hearing to conditionally rezone 2 Butler Road from Community Business II District to Residential Expansion – Conditional Zone (staff memo)

We reported on this project in our October 9th, November 13th, and November 20th GAP Reports. Developers are asking for a zoning change in order to build a total of 279 units in five 4- to 5-story multi-family buildings. They plan for 10% of the units to be “affordable at 80% Area Median Income (AMI) for a minimum of 20 years.” The developers say “up to half” of those “affordable” units will accept Housing Choice Vouchers. On November 14th, City Council voted unanimously to postpone their vote on this matter until the December 12th meeting.

This project is a perfect illustration of how so-called “affordable” housing is actually playing a pivotal role in driving Black and Latine people out of this region. A recent analysis by Thrive Asheville (which you can read in its entirety here and which was reported on last month in this Citizen-Times article) addresses this reality squarely: So-called “affordable housing” for those earning 80% Area Median Income (AMI) “actually (increases) the disparity of available homes to those most in need and households with children.”

Black and Latine families in our region have a median income that is below 50% of AMI. Projects like this one, with a small number of slightly reduced units, will not address their need for more deeply affordable housing. If approved, this development will instead continue the trend of making the City increasingly unaffordable for Black and Latine folks. The Asheville City Council should push back against the developers’ proposal and demand that more truly affordable housing be included in this development.

Things to do

Write to the Asheville City Council and ask them to take a stand for more deeply affordable housing.

We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue (along with several others in this report). You can (a) use our City Council template link to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.

Asheville City Council Agenda – Public Hearing C. 115 Fairview Road land use incentive grant (LUIG) request and conditional rezoning request (staff report on grant request, staff report on conditional rezoning request, presentation)

The Project Conditions for the rezoning state that “A total of 20% of the units will be affordable at 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Asheville, NC as established by HUD, for a minimum period of 20 years.”

When the LUIG grant request came before the Housing and Community Development Committee last month, Council Members Antanette Mosley and Sheneika Smith voted against it, referencing the same Thrive Asheville report we have been citing that demonstrates that so-called affordable housing at 80% AMI is discriminatory against Black and Latine residents. We hope their colleagues will join them in sending a strong message that Asheville needs more deeply affordable and non-discriminatory housing.

Things to do

Write to the Asheville City Council and ask them to take a stand for more deeply affordable housing.

We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue (along with several others in this report). You can (a) use our City Council template link to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.

GREEN:

Things that sound like a step in the right direction

Asheville City Council Agenda – New Business A. Resolution approving revisions to the Housing Trust Fund Policy (Staff Report, Presentation)

The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (AHAC) recently reviewed the Housing Trust Fund policy and made recommendations for revisions. City staff concur with the spirit of these recommendations and have suggested some additional tweaks. Some of those revisions include:

  • Revised priorities (“More units, deeper affordability, accepting vouchers, and longer affordability periods.”)
  • Realignment of the HTF scoring card with policy priorities
  • Clarification of language and organization of content to help with the policy’s clarity

City staff are asking for more time to fully assess the proposed changes in the scoring system, but are largely concurring with AHAC and the Housing and Community Development Committee, both of which approved these changes unanimously. We appreciate the intent here, in keeping with our recent emphasis on the need for more deeply affordable housing, and think these revisions should be approved.

Things to do

​​​Write to the Asheville City Council and ask them to take a stand for more deeply affordable housing.

We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue (along with several others in this report). You can (a) use our City Council template link to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.

Asheville City Council Agenda – New Business B. Commonwealth Development Corporation requesting a revised loan amount to develop multi-family apartments at 3124/3130 Sweeten Creek Road (Fairhaven Summit) (Staff report Presentation)

This project was approved for a loan in 2022, but the developers are asking for additional loan funds because of shifts in interest rates. The development (Fairhaven Summit) will consist of 77 total units affordable to families at 30%, 50%, 70%, and 80% of area median income (AMI), with a 30-year affordability period. 45 units (58%) will be at or below 60% AMI.

This is a good example of a housing development that offers some deeply affordable units, precisely what we’ve been suggesting that City Council push for. We favor approval of this resolution.

Things to do

​​Write to the Asheville City Council and ask them to take a stand for more deeply affordable housing.

We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue (along with several others in this report). You can (a) use our City Council template link to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.

COUNTY COMMISSION (REPARATIONS EXTENSION) EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT

You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can copy and paste the text below into an email and then send it to the addresses listed. Please consider making edits that reflect your personal interests and concerns on this issue.

Send to: brownie.newman@buncombecounty.org, jasmine.beach-ferrara@buncombecounty.org, alfred.whitesides@buncombecounty.org, amanda.edwards@buncombecounty.org, terri.wells@buncombecounty.org, martin.moore@buncombecounty.org, parker.sloan@buncombecounty.org

Subject: I support the Reparations Commission’s request for an extension

Dear County Commissioners,

I am writing to voice my support for the Community Reparations Commission’s (CRC’s) request for an eight-month extension of their process. Given the delays in response to their data requests, the many comings and goings of Project Managers and senior staff support, the forthcoming opportunity to incorporate the Stop the Harm audit findings, and the need for much deeper engagement with the Black community to truly center them in the process, I think the CRC’s request is more than warranted. You entrusted them with a critical mission when you appointed these Commissioners in 2022, and I ask that you trust them again now when they tell you they need more time to complete their work successfully.

Thanks for your leadership,

CITY COUNCIL (REPARATIONS EXTENSION) EMAIL TEMPLATE

Can be found on the RJC website.

CITY COUNCIL (AFFORDABLE HOUSING) EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT

You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can copy and paste the text below into an email and then send it to the address listed. Please consider making edits that reflect your personal interests and concerns on this issue.

Send to: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov

Subject: Deeply affordable housing

Dear City Council Members,

There are four items on your December 12th agenda that relate to affordable housing. Both the 2 Butler Road and 115 Fairview Road projects offer a small percentage of their units at just 80% AMI. Because Black and Latine residents’ median income is below 50% AMI, it’s unlikely that any of this housing would be available to them. I encourage you to push back on these developments, since they will just exacerbate existing inequities in our community.

In contrast, the request by the developers of the Fairhaven Summit project for additional funding seems worthwhile, because 58% of their units will be at 60% AMI or below. I also encourage you to approve the proposed revisions in the Housing Trust Fund Policy that call for an increased prioritization of deeply affordable housing. Let’s work together to make Asheville both more affordable and more diverse.

Thank you for your leadership,