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Buncombe County TDA Should Allocate Funds Towards Subsidized Housing Construction

by Andrew P.
January 25, 2023

This member commentary post does not necessarily reflect the views of Asheville For All or its members.

This morning, I joined people from Buncombe Decides, Asheville Food and Beverage United, and other community members at the meeting of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) to push for the allocation of the BCTDA’s “legacy funds” towards subsidizing the construction of housing for service workers and other workers and families in the county that are rent-burdened and/or housing insecure.

To learn more about the BCTDA and the legacy funds, this recent article about Buncombe Decides provides helpful background. You can also learn more at the Buncombe Decides website.

What follows below is the public comment that I delivered to the BCTDA:

* * *

Hi everyone, my name is Andrew Paul, and I’m a lead organizer with Asheville For All. We’re an organization that advocates for more housing.

And I’m here to ask the TDA to subsidize multifamily home construction, to make homes in the area more affordable for workers and their families.

We have a saying in the housing advocacy movement:

The character of a place comes from its characters.

Not old buildings. Or tourist attractions.

The character of a place comes from its characters.

When we’re selling others on Asheville, we talk about its quirky charm.

The [BCTDA’s] Explore Asheville website uses words like “edgy,” “artsy”, and “bohemian.” And in town we like to say “Keep Asheville Weird.”

Problem is: it’s increasingly difficult for weird characters to survive in this city.

That’s because there is a scarcity of homes.

Now, tourism or no tourism, the country as a whole has a shortage of four million homes.

But the EXTREME scarcity HERE is in part caused by added demand that comes from tourism and marketing.

Now I have no problem with anyone that wants to come here. No one should be excluded from a right to move, to find opportunity, and to seek happiness.

But we now have a system—essentially the combination of our housing shortage and an excessive tourism budget — a system that pits our local characters against outsiders, newcomers, migrants, and yes tourists.

Because when those folks come to town, they effectively bid up rents, and home prices for our weird characters.

It’s not their fault. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

So look. The TDA is tasked with quote “engaging and inviting more diverse audiences” and “promoting and supporting Asheville’s creative spirit.” Unquote.

Seems to me that making it so that Asheville’s characters can afford to live here—and so that we can have new characters visit and settle here too—is worthy of the TDA’s mission.

Now let me be clear: I don’t think that Asheville’s housing crisis will be solved by TDA money alone.

For one thing, without land use reform, we’ll be stuck using that money to subsidize multi-family home construction on the margins of the city, tucked next to interstates, or strung alongside misanthropic multi-lane roads, or what are sometimes called stroads. That’s no way to integrate characters into the livelier spots of our city. Spots where there are jobs and transit and people.

So we need land use reform. Specifically we need to end exclusionary zoning.

And that’s not a TDA thing.

But that aside, I do think we also need to look at the TDA’s budget holistically, and talk about the advertising side.

But the legacy fund is a really good start.

This member commentary post does not necessarily reflect the views of Asheville For All or its members.

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