Asheville’s Affordable Housing Crisis – Shocking Facts Reveal Waste, Ignorance, & Incompetence

Shipping Container Houses a possible partial solution for Asheville Housing Crisis. Image courtesy of grist.org

Shipping Container Houses a possible partial solution for Asheville Housing Crisis. Image courtesy of grist.org

Asheville’s affordable housing crisis is once again a front page story Headline in the Asheville Citizen Times today.

The candidates for Asheville’s City Council have been asked by the Asheville Citizen Times to write a 120 word essay regarding their best solutions for Asheville’s Affordable Housing Crisis.
All of the 16 candidates but one responded and you can read each candidates essay on the Citizen Times Website, but before you waste your time in thinking you will find some new ideas on affordable housing solutions, I can tell you there are none.
Not one new, creative, out of the box idea, from any of the 16 candidates, and not a peep about current HUD Grantee Organizations in NC, eating up millions (over $108 million in 2015)  of dollars in funding while providing a questionable amount, and level, of services which directly help the Affordable Housing Movement in any way, let alone the current affordable housing crisis we have here in Asheville.
Well, I have a few ideas of my own as well as some shocking facts about the housing crisis and how we spend these millions upon millions of dollars already being pumped into NC’s network of businesses and organizations supposedly responsible for providing Affordable Housing Solutions.
In summary for those who do not have the time to read beyond the “read more” link, we are wasting HUD money, our leadership is incompetent regarding creative programs and solutions, and we are ignorant as a community regarding the crisis as a whole.
You better hold on, because this aint gonna be pretty…

This week, 16  City Council Candidates dust off their Mac Book Pros to compile their best ideas, and not one new or unique idea. I know candidates like to stick to solutions that are proven to work and that new ideas are risky, but we are in desperate times here. Creative thinking, insight for comprehensive solutions,  and the ability to communicate them effectively to your colleagues and to the community you serve (or will be serving), should all be top requirements for a seat on the City Council, no?
I for one am currently living with 4 others in a single room at a Days Inn Motel and paying 1600 month for rent which makes me quite passionate about this topic.
I drive 20 miles every day to get my kids to school and have to fight for my life everyday to avoid getting stuck in tan endless circle of being financially paralyzed due to the high cost of my only short term housing solution.
You, me, my kids, and some random landlord somewhere (along with the local economy), would all be much better off with my money going into the pockets of someone who lives here locally instead of the pockets of some corporate entity not to mention the impact this has on my children and the overall Family dynamic. Living at the Days Inn only felt like a vacation for the first week, and was all downhill from there, trust me.
My hopes for finding solutions to Asheville’s Affordable Housing Crisis were raised this morning when I saw today’s headline in the Times, which again was “Something, something “Affordable Housing” Something”..only to be quickly crushed after reading the article which was just more of the same canned responses we have heard over and over again from current and future seat holders.
The only idea I read in the Times article that caught my eye, was candidate Rich Lee who said:
 A program helping small-time landlords, maybe with a tax discount, reduced fees, or assistance in building backyard and basement apartments, has a twofold effect: It helps the landlord afford to live here as well as the tenant”
Now I am an optimist, and I was willing to take this one sentence out of the approx. 160 sentences that candidates wrote and chalk it up to progress, and a possible candidate to vote for.
Lee’s statement could be a breakthrough I thought considering current CC members have spent their days trying to hire an “Inspector” who would “hide in bushes and spy on short term rental landlords” in hopes of imposing fines on them for code and ordinance violations – this is the most activity on the Affordable Housing docet for the City Council as of late…Way to go.
But then my hopes and dreams were crushed the very next sentence written by Lee:
“But costs are only half the equation, the other half’s our low local wages. Asheville has the ability to grow jobs in a wide range of fields and insist they pay a living wage. A bigger push on real, sustainable job creation needs to come first.”
Really?
Jobs are First?
You don’t fix a Housing Chrisis by imposing wage requirements on small businesses and hope it has a positive effect in some way on a very serious housing crisis. I will do that research but it won’t to help me any in finding an affordable lease because you get an $.80 cents per hour raise next year.
We need extreme measures with quick-to-market solutions. Read some of my suggestions regarding new, creative, out-of-the-box ideas for Asheville’s Affordable Housing Solutions in my reply to one of the candidates in the comments section of that very same Citizen Times article.
As I stated in my response, this crisis is not at all just a matter of lack of resources, or a lack of funding. In fact, according to my research, North Carolina has recently (in the past 8 months) received over $105,000,000 in HUD Distributed Grant money.

Most HUD grant money coming into North Carolina went to Local Housing Authorities which administer mostly backlogged programs structured decades ago. HUD funds many Not for Profit Groups, Shelters, Landlord Education Programs, and even Local Credit Counseling Agencies which are some of the most controversial businesses providing services to crisis-ridden or poor families.

Many of these Credit Counseling Organizations who claim to provide a path for poor families to clean-up and secure credit to buy a home, will charge up front fees and rarely result in the Family securing an approved line of credit or even an approved mortgage pre-qualification.

Much of the HUD Grant money also went to projects that provide short term solutions to symptomatic housing issues and none of the grants funded long-term affordable housing solutions and infrastructure planning.

Our research found that very little money, if any at all, went directly to actually building a single housing unit other than Habitat for Humanity which only builds Affordable Housing for those with good credit.

So there seems to be an issue with the misappropriation of funds, failure to identify agencies that can help solve the communities core problems responsible for the housing crisis, and a lack of a responsible use of granted funds by agencies that provide value-less services to the community.

If your organization takes HUD Grant money and all you offer is a service that t advises callers to call 211, or you help families fill out the public housing assistance application and submit it to the local Housing Authority, than you are a criminal.

Your crime should be punishable by loss of HUD Grant Funding and my Family should get to rent your home until you come up with a plan to instill some integrity back into your business plan.

As far as the candidates for City Council, they all need to put some effort into solving real problems with real solutions. Until then, there is no reason for me to spend any precious time at the voting booth.

In 2015 there has been $105,855,321.00 granted to Asheville and neighboring communities in NC for Affordable Housing Programs and Solutions. What are we getting from these organizations in the form of services that directly effect the current Affordable Housing Crisis? From my perspective as a Homeless Citizen living in and around Asheville, not much if anything…Notice, while many NC counties were awarded grant money, Buncombe County failed to directly secure any of the almost $109 million allocated to NC. Rut Row!

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