Affordable housing

We are in a housing crisis. Rents are rising, foreclosures are rising, and wages are stagnant. If you work a full-time job in Asheville, you ought to be able to afford to live in Asheville. Cutting affordable housing funds during a housing crisis would be like cutting police patrols during a crime wave. We must:

  • Fortify the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Affordable Housing Infill Development Incentive.
  • Utilize Density Bonuses to encourage more infill on transportation corridors.
  • Make housing affordable now and in the future by raising the bar on energy efficiency.
  • Allow "Use by Right" instead of "Conditional Use" when Affordable Housing developers meet requirements.
  • Encourage mixed income housing in the downtown catchment area as stated in the Downtown Master Plan

WHAT IS AFFORDABLE HOUSING?

From the Affordable Housing Plan 2008:

"Housing is affordable when housing costs are no more than 30% of an individual's total income. Housing costs include utilities, property taxes, association fees, insurance, and maintenance.

Workforce Housing is defined as housing that is attainable by households who earn up to 140% of the Area Median Income. Meaning, in the City of Asheville families earning less than $73,500 in 2008 are the target audience for workforce housing. Typically teachers, police officers, nurses and many other professionals fall into this category."

PROTECT AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUND AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING INFILL DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVE

The Trust Fund helps affordable housing developers get credit and initiate their projects. It must not be cut. The Infill Development Incentive reduces sprawl and concentrates new development on existing transportation corridors.

DENSITY BONUSES

Density reduces the cost of building and reduces sprawl that carves into our open spaces. While any new development needs to fit into the neighborhood it enters, increasing density can increase the supply of affordable housing.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY - AFFORDABLE NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

Housing becomes truly affordable only if the housing remains affordable after residents move in. Energy efficiency accomplishes this by lowering energy costs for residents. It also reduces the strain on our energy infrastructure, meaning fewer taxpayer funded energy production facilities will be needed in the future.

USE BY RIGHT VS. CONDITIONAL USE

As stated in the Affordable Housing Plan 2008, dense developments under 50 units should not have to go through a Conditional Use process. "The special requirements should be developed with community input and should not be prohibitive or onerous."

While every new neighborhood development must fit the design, scale, and character of the neighborhood, multi-family dwellings that meet community requirements should not be subject to the Conditional Use process.

END CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS

The City of Asheville's 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness is working. Over one hundred chronically homeless people have been placed into housing. This program, called Housing First, has an 85% success rate. That is, 85% of the chronically homeless people in the program have stayed in housing for three years or longer. We must recommit to this vital program.

RECOMMENDATIONS

I strongly support the following recommendations laid out in the Affordable Housing Plan 2008:

"The City of Asheville, in partnership and collaboration with the entire Asheville community and area developers should set a goal to increase the supply of affordable housing units by 500 units a year over the next 20 years. Approximately 75% of those units should be rental units and many should be efficiency or 1-bedroom units"

"Redevelopment of subsidized housing should be explored and mixed-income uses considered. There should be no overall loss of public housing units unless they are replaced with project-based Section 8 subsidies. The difficulty of finding landlords indicates that replacing public housing units with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers is not effective."

"For all proposed developments under 50 units, density bonuses for affordable housing should be Use By Right Subject To Special Requirements, not a Conditional Use. The special requirements should be developed with community input and should not be prohibitive or onerous."

"In all residential single family neighborhoods, allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes as conversions or new construction as Use By Right To Special Requirements. Re-evaluate the special requirements currently in place for duplexes to increase flexibility. In general, all residential areas should allow multi-family buildings that fit the design, scale and character of the neighborhood."

"Encourage the use of transit by reducing parking requirements through the use of on-street parking."

"Emphasize affordable housing development as a priority to all city departments increasing the cooperation between city departments and developers and other city departments."

"Amend the Housing Trust Fund guidelines to allow for 20% of money put into the fund annually to be made available as grants for rental assistance programs for the homeless or to subsidize development or operation of units set aside for the homeless."

"Offer the fee rebate to developers for housing that falls under the maximum sales price or otherwise complies with the requirements for the Housing Trust Fund or density bonuses regardless of price."

"In 2003, City Council voted to rescind the mandatory inspection provision of the Minimum Housing Code, but committed to studying the impact of this change on the affordability and condition of rental housing. This study has not been done. The City should explore the impact of this change and revise the Minimum Housing Code as necessary to ensure the residents of Asheville have safe housing to rent.

"Commentary: The Building Safety Department records the number of complaints it receives. There were 60 complaints in 2003 and 189 in 2007. (It should be noted, however, that there were 227 complaints in 2001.) Residential fires have increased from 65 in 2002 to 187 in 2007."

"Affordable housing is one part of an integrated approach to planning. Create transit corridor overlay districts that encourage affordable housing by providing incentives for mixed-use development, higher density, sustainability, infill development and open space. Potential areas for the transit corridor overlay districts are: Patton Avenue in West Asheville, Merrimon Avenue in North Asheville, Tunnel Road in East Asheville, and Hendersonville Road and Sweeten Creek Road in South Asheville."

"Provide concentrated landlord educations on the benefits of the Housing Choice Voucher Program and other subsidy programs; build a base of cooperating landlords."

"Provide concentrated developer education to housing developers on the incentives offered by the City. Partner with the Homebuilders Association and other trade groups to facilitate this education"

"Create and maintain a comprehensive housing website for developers, consumers, advocates, and others."