The Buncombe County Commission meets tonight, Tuesday 6/7/22 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.
The Community Reparations Commission held their third meeting last night, Monday 6/6/22 at 6 p.m. You can review the documents and watch recordings online at the Commission’s webpage.
Things that are top priority
At the 5/23/22 Community Reparations Commission meeting, the members voted unanimously to formally request that the City and County begin funding Reparations now, and have it be a line item in their budgets each year going forward. At the 6/6/22 meeting, they repeated this unanimous vote, after City and County staff raised questions about the process behind the first vote.
At the 5/24/22 City Council Meeting, a proposed budget was introduced that allocates $365,000 for Reparations funding, which is roughly .2% of their overall budget. There is no indication that the City plans for this to be a recurring line item in their future budgets.
At the 6/7/22 County Commission meeting, a proposed budget will be introduced that allocates $2 million for Reparations, which is roughly .3% of their overall budget. There is no indication that the County plans for this to be a recurring line item in their future budgets.
City and County officials apparently refused to respond to the initial Reparations Commission request for a funding commitment two weeks ago because they had technical questions about the Commission’s process (as detailed in this article). It troubles us that City and County officials appear to be looking for excuses to ignore the Commission, rather than looking for ways to support them. Now that the Commission has made this request a second time, it’s time for both the City and County to respond: will they commit to Reparations funding as an ongoing priority in their budgets?
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission and ask them to publicly respond to the Reparations Commission request for a commitment to Reparations funding in their budgets. You can personalize and send the email template available at the Racial Justice Coalition website.
Things of concern, more information needed
The County intends to pursue a referendum to issue General Obligation bonds not to exceed $40 million for the capital costs of housing for the benefit of persons of low or moderate income, including construction of related infrastructure improvements and the acquisition of related land and rights-of-way.
While we think $40 million is an admirably large sum, we have several questions about this proposed bond order:
- What affordable housing projects does the County have in mind for the use of these funds? Will the county be relying exclusively on private developers for these projects?
- The bonds will be paid for by tax increases, presumably property tax increases, and the County’s property appraisals appear to be highly inequitable. There is an ad-hoc committee currently exploring the extent of these inequities, and we wonder about the timing of the proposed tax increases and whether the County will have time to correct the appraisals. Will poorer people and especially people of color will end up disproportionately funding this bond?
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Buncombe County Commission via their contact page. Ask them the questions posed in the left column: how will these funds be used, and will the County fix the inequities in its property tax appraisals before raising property taxes to pay for these projects?
Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission 6/1/22 (agenda)
The Commission approved a 77-unit, 100 percent affordable (under current definitions) development on Sweeten Creek. This project is similar in price structure to the Haywood Street Congregation Development project, with the exception that units are marked as affordable for 30 years, not in perpetuity. It was covered in the news here.
We think this is one of the stronger proposals for affordable housing that has emerged in recent months, promising an average of 58% Area Median Income for residents. However, we continue to believe that City Council’s exclusive reliance on private developers for affordable housing will not generate the kind of deep affordability our region needs.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council via email (email@example.com). Ask them what their vision is for achieving real affordable housing in Asheville into the future.
Things that sound like a step in the right direction
County Commission Agenda – Public Hearing – Recommended FY2023 Budget – Addition of two additional County Equity department positions
There is an allocation in this budget to expand the County’s Equity department, adding two new positions in addition to the Chief Equity Officer position added last year. “Two Equity and Inclusion Specialists to provide consultation, facilitation, and training to all County departments on integrating equity and human rights in policies, processes, and work environments, as well and working with the community and our local government partners.” (page 17)
We salute this as an important step in the right direction. We’ll be curious to see how the work of these new Specialists is received within the County departments they’ll be evaluating and training.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Buncombe County Commission via their contact page. Encourage them to approve this budget allocation and support the hiring of these two new Equity Office positions.