Government Accountability Project Asheville

The Buncombe County Commission meets this Tuesday, May 21st, 2024 at 5 pm. You can attend the meeting at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting online via Buncombe County’s Facebook page. The full agenda is here.

URGENT

  • 0 Items

PROBLEMATIC

  • 2 Items

CONCERNS

  • 0 Items

POSITIVE

  • 0 Items

EMAIL TEMPLATES and TALKING POINTS

Use our prepared email template and talking points to take action on this week’s items.

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Things that seem problematic

Follow Up: Asheville Housing Authority isn’t publicly sharing information on proposed closure of Southside Community Farm and Head Start programs

In our 4/15/24 GAP Report we described a resolution by the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville (HACA) to close the Southside Community Farm (SCF), which sits behind the Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center. In our 5/13/24 GAP Report, we relayed concerns about the forthcoming termination of leases to Head Start programs in three different public housing buildings. The latest report backs on both issues can be found here.

We have heard a range of concerns from community members about both of these issues, and speculation about the hidden agendas that might be driving these changes. In light of that, we’re very concerned about the complete lack of response, or any form of public disclosure, from HACA itself. The HACA website doesn’t appear to have any information or explanation about why they are proposing to close SCF. There is also no statement that explains why the Head Start programs’ lease was terminated.

We are troubled by the pattern here: HACA appears poised to make decisions that will have far-ranging consequences, and they are not sharing any information about these moves or responding to the concerns of public housing residents and the larger community. Since we’re not aware of any responses from the HACA president or Board to the emails sent last week, we’re recommending folks call and ask these questions directly.

Things to do

Call the Asheville Housing Authority and speak to (or leave a message for) President and CEO Monique L. Pierre. Ask her why there is no publicly available information about either the proposed closure of the Southside Community Farm or the Head Start programs.

We have prepared some talking points and a report back form for you below that you can use to contact the Asheville Housing Authority.

Outcomes

Check back later this week for a report back on this issue.

Buncombe County Commission Agenda – New Business: Budget Amendments – Funds 343 and 224 Affordable Housing Services Program Allocations and GO Bond Project Commitments for FY25 (presentation)

County staff are seeking approval for a budget amendment that would roll unallocated funds for the Affordable Housing Services Program to next year and establish new Affordable Housing GO Bond projects. These combined funding commitments will support the development of affordable rental units, affordable homeownership opportunities, repairs for low- and moderate-income households, tenant based rental assistance, and the construction of an emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

When the County shared their Affordable Housing Services Program goals last December, we raised the concern that there was far too little emphasis on deeply affordable housing (see our 12/4/23 GAP Report). This proposed amendment of that plan continues the trend. While we appreciate how clearly the County articulates their goals, and the fact that they reference those goals in making updates like this one, we’re troubled by the fact that those goals seem not to reflect one of the greatest community needs. Of the 2950 affordable homes targeted, only 200 (6%) will be for those making 30% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI). The majority of the homes will be targeted at those making 80% of AMI. Last year’s analysis by Thrive Asheville (which you can read in its entirety here) 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…”

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. We recognize that deeply affordable housing is inherently more expensive to develop, but we cannot meet this challenge by ignoring it. We wonder: does the County have a strategy for offering a meaningful amount of deeply affordable housing?

Things to do

Email the Buncombe County Commission and ask them what their strategy is for making a meaningful impact on the lack of deeply affordable housing in the County.

We have prepared an email template below that you can use to contact them.

Outcomes

Check back later this week for a report back on this issue.

HOUSING AUTHORITY TALKING POINTS & FORM

Because Housing Authority for the City of Asheville (HACA) President and CEO Monique Pierre doesn’t appear to be answering emails, we’re suggesting that you give her a call instead. You can reach HACA at (828) 258-1222. Here are some things you might say, although we encourage you to be yourself. After you’ve made the call, please fill out our quick report back form below so we can track the number of calls and report back any responses.

  • Hello, this is (introduce yourself) and I’d like to speak to President Pierre.
  • I’ve heard some concerning things the past month or so about some pending Housing Authority resolutions to close the Southside Community Farm and terminate the lease of Head Start. There doesn’t appear to be any information about either of these decisions on the Housing Authority website.
  • I’d like to be better informed. Can you please offer me more information about what HACA’s plans and intentions are?

(If you don’t see the form below, you can access it here.)

COUNTY COMMISSION EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT

​You can send an email to the Buncombe County Commission by filling out the form below. Our email tool will send an individually addressed email to each recipient, and enable us to track how many emails were sent overall in the campaign. If you prefer to write your own email, you can copy and paste (and adapt) our template text. We ask that you send us a copy (cc or bcc, your choice) at info@gapavl.org so we can better track how many emails were sent.

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

CC or BCC: info@gapavl.org

Subject: Not enough deeply affordable housing in the County

Dear Members of the Buncombe County Commission,

I’m writing out of concern for the lack of deeply affordable housing in the County, and with curiosity to learn more about the County’s strategy for addressing that. The Affordable Housing Services Program that you will be discussing at your May 21st meeting is primarily focused on housing for those making 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) or above – only 6% of the projects you are supporting will focus on those earning 30% AMI or below. Because Black and Latine residents’ median income is well below the 80% AMI level, almost all of the housing you are planning to build will not be available to them. Thrive Asheville’s report last year pointed out that “building more units for households making… 80% AMI and above may actually increase the disparity of available homes to those most in need…” I recognize that creating deeply affordable housing can be challenging, but I trust that you agree with me that it has to be a top priority. What is the County’s strategy for offering a meaningful amount of deeply affordable housing?

Thanks for your leadership,

(If you don’t see the form below, you can access it here.)