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For housing abundance and diverse, livable communities in Asheville

Statement in Support of Haw Creek Meadows

by Asheville For All
March 25, 2024

This letter was delivered to Asheville City Council on March 25th.

Dear City Councilors,

We are writing in favor of the proposed “Haw Creek Meadows” development at 767 New Haw Creek Road, currently on the City Council’s agenda for April 9th.

The city’s staff has drafted a very strong memorandum in support of this project. And so we only want to draw attention to a few key points.

As city staff notes, this is an effort to provide “infill development,” which may aid the neighborhood in reaching a “compact traditional neighborhood pattern.” The result may not only provide much needed housing in a high-demand neighborhood, but also “lay the foundation” for a more walkable community.

A broader implication of the city staff’s well-articulated conclusions is that none of our communities’ built environments need to be set in stone—an assumption that a vocal minority of our city’s residents most assuredly hold, but in the history of American cities is a relatively new phenomenon. We appreciate the city staff calling attention to the Comprehensive Plan which states that even those neighborhoods with a more suburban character can and should grow and change to meet the city’s present and future needs.

We understand that the voices of neighbors in Haw Creek matter, and we were heartened to hear from several residents of the neighborhood who see the need for, and desirability of, welcoming new neighbors to Haw Creek. In addition to the pro-housing letters published in the Citizen-Times and Mountain Xpress, we personally met with Haw Creek residents that wanted to let us know that the neighborhood association, which predictably opposes these new homes, did not speak for them. They understood the dire need for more housing, and they also understood the personal benefits that come with a more vibrant and diverse community. As the saying goes: more neighbors means more fun.

In fact, the discourse surrounding this development provides an opportunity to remind ourselves of something important: while we often hear about “neighborhood opposition” or “neighborhood concerns” to new housing as if there were unanimity, neighborhood associations tend to reflect the interests of a certain subset of our city—those that are wealthier, have more free time, and are settled in their living situations. (That is, they haven’t had to shop around for homes or apartments in some time.)

Finally, we want to point out that residents outside of Haw Creek matter too. When one neighborhood pushes for exclusivity, that has ripple effects throughout the region. A homebuyer that is pushed out of Haw Creek’s home market may instead buy in North Asheville, which in turn means that a homebuyer looking in North Asheville may be pushed out towards West Asheville, settling for an older bungalow or condominium there. The result is not simply one fewer new market-rate home. It’s one fewer “starter home” or rental on the market.

We might call this the “housing butterfly effect.” This effect isn’t concerned with whether new homes might be subsidized or market-rate. The end result of fewer homes being constructed in high-demand places is always akin to a game of “musical chairs.” Those in the city or region who have the least means to claim a seat as they become more scarce will end up without one.

Opponents of housing that live in the Haw Creek neighborhood have suggested that theirs is a unique community with “rural character,” and is therefore exempt from pitching in with respect to the need for more housing. But this neighborhood is closer to downtown and other employment centers than several others which feature a greater density of homes than does Haw Creek. And Haw Creek shares access to all of the benefits and amenities that Asheville’s core neighborhoods do. This is not a remote place, bereft of infrastructure and services.

To be certain, more single family homes in Haw Creek won’t solve the city’s housing crisis. And the number of homes being proposed here may seem like small change compared to the increased supply that we get from multifamily projects in other parts of the city.

But blocking these homes from being built will only further our housing deficit, and send Asheville’s working people farther out from their workplaces. (In fact, the number of mature trees proposed for demolition at 767 New Haw Creek Road pales in comparison to the number of trees that would be needed to offset the carbon footprint of the daily commutes for those potential residents that might need to live in neighboring cities or counties instead.) Doing so would also send a message that neighborhoods desiring exclusivity can opt out of their obligations to the city from which they benefit. Given that the recent “Missing Middle Housing Study” has identified the urgent need for broad land use reform, ceding to opponents of modest residential infill could prove detrimental to the city’s goal of ameliorating our severe housing crisis. And most significantly, it would deny Haw Creek residents themselves of the advantages that come with being a growing, welcoming, more diverse community.

Thank you as always for your attention and consideration.

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