Government Accountability Project Asheville

The Community Reparations Commission meets TONIGHT, Monday, December 4 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The meeting will be held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. The public is welcome to attend. Meeting materials are available here. You can watch the meeting live (or a recording of it later) online here.

The Buncombe County Commission meets this Tuesday, December 5, 2023 at 5:00 pm, at 200 College Street, Room 326, in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting live (or a recording of it later) online via Buncombe County’s Facebook page. The full agenda is here.

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Things that seem problematic

Buncombe County Commission Meeting – New Business – Approval of Affordable Housing Services Program Revisions (Program Description, Presentation)

The County Commission will vote on whether to approve the latest Affordable Housing Service Program (AHSP) description, which includes some proposed revisions from previous years. The purpose of the AHSP is to “ensure comprehensive opportunities for affordable and safe housing are available” in the County. In the program description, a set of objectives is outlined which states (in part):

  • “Buncombe County will impact 2,800‐3,150 affordable housing units by 2030.”
  • Most of the units will be offered at 80% Area Media Income (AMI).
  • 200 units (6%) will be offered at 30% AMI or lower.

We are troubled by the lack of deeply affordable housing in the vision presented here. Last month, we raised this issue in relation to a development coming before the Asheville City Council (you can read about it in our November 20 GAP Report), which purported to offer some “affordable housing” units that on closer scrutiny will not be affordable to the vast majority of Black and Latine folks in our region. As we cited there, a recent analysis by Thrive Asheville (which you can read in its entirety here and which was reported on in this Citizen-Times article) demonstrates that 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. Their needs will not be addressed if the County’s focus is primarily on “affordable housing” for those making 80% of AMI. There are signs that the Buncombe County Commission understands this – they plan to request funding support from the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) for their Ferry Road project, which promises an average of 54% AMI affordability. (You can read about the project, and the County’s request to the TDA to fund it, in this article.) The County Commission should set a similar standard with the Affordable Housing Service Program, and we suggest it be revised with objectives that include more truly affordable housing.

Things to do

We encourage you to reach out to the Buncombe County Commission and encourage them to revise the Affordable Housing Service Program objectives to include a higher percentage of deeply affordable housing.

We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue. 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

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 address 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: Current AHSP objectives will decrease Buncombe County’s diversity

Dear County Commissioners,

One of the items on your December 5 agenda is the approval of revisions to the Affordable Housing Service Program (AHSP). In the objectives listed in the program description, only 200 units are projected at 30% Area Median Income (AMI) or below through 2030, which is just 6% of the new affordable housing projected. I’m sure you are aware of Thrive Asheville’s 2023 Opening Doors report, which documents that much of so-called “affordable housing,” which is only available to families making 80% of AMI or above, is actually not affordable to almost all Black and Latine families in Buncombe County, whose median income is below 50% AMI.
The County objectives expressed in the Affordable Housing Service Program description seem skewed away from these communities, and could therefore make our region even less diverse than it already is. I encourage you to push back on these objectives and suggest they be revised to reflect a higher percentage of deeply affordable housing.

Thank you for your leadership,