AshevilleCity - County Gov.Leslee KulbaLocal News: Asheville and HendersonvilleNews Stories

Increasing the cost of housing that subsidy may abound

The first project, Amaranth Apartments, to be built by Workforce Homestead, would consist of three residential buildings and a clubhouse. The project would be built on a currently-wooded lot next to Westridge Shopping Center, so it would be within walking distance of Food Lion, Rite Aid, a YMCA, and AB Tech’s Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast. Buncombe County currently services the area with transit that connects to Asheville’s bus system.

Workforce Homestead proposed making 70 units affordable to persons earning at most 60% of AMI. Some units would be affordable to persons earning 30%-50% of AMI. Per the staff report, the project would be certified by Energy Star, and 5% (3.5) of the units would be ADA-accessible and reserved for persons transitioning from homelessness.

The city proposed granting this project $600,000, equivalent to 6% of development costs. The loan was to be repaid in full after 20 years, but the units would remain rent-controlled for 30 years. The adjusted interest rate would be around 0.5%

The second project, Clingman@Hilliard, to be built by Mountain Housing Opportunities, would be a “mixed-equity,” mixed-use development across the street from an affordable housing project being built by a private developer on city land. It was downtown, where members of city council want to increase subsidized housing stock.

MHO proposed constructing 80 units, 60 of which would be affordable to persons earning 60% of AMI, and a number not specified in the staff report would be accessible to persons earning 30%-50% of AMI. The project would be certified by NC Green Built and System Vision, and another unspecified number of units would be ADA-accessible. The development would also include 5,000 square feet of commercial space.

The city proposed awarding this project $1,800,000, equivalent to 14% of development costs. The subsidy “deviated from” the city’s $20,000 per-unit cap on awards from the HTF, but that policy had also been broken for the project across the street. The loan would have a term of 99 years, during which the developer would pay only interest at a rate of 2%. The units would remain rent-controlled for the duration of the loan.

Both projects were described as “dependent on” federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and a decision on whether they would be receiving those subsidies would be made in August. Presenter Christopher Hnatin explained those awards are highly-competitive, and typically only one project in Buncombe County – at most – is expected to qualify.

Councilor Vijay Kapoor asked for background on how the city selected projects. If both these projects were to be funded, the city would only have $220,392 left for affordable housing projects this year.

Kapoor did a side-by-side comparison. Both projects proposed about the same number of units, but MHO would receive three times Workforce’s subsidy. One reason was that MHO was building on prime real estate. Another was that their rent control was in-perpetuity. Councilor Julie Mayfield said an adage among affordable housing advocates was, “If you’re not making affordable housing permanent, you’re not making affordable housing.”

Kapoor then questioned if the buildings were even going to be around in 99 years. He asked to divide the question and cast the only vote against the MHO award.

Making Housing More Affordable –

The city’s budget manager, Tony McDowell, presented the proposed fees and charges schedule for council approval. Water and stormwater fees, he said, would go up modestly; 2% and 5%, respectively, for a single-family home.

Changes to development services fees followed the recommendations of Matrix Consulting, a firm that provides analysis for government bodies. The amounts better approximate full cost recovery, he said.

Sample adjustments affecting housing development include an increase from $25 to $75 for plan review for persons wanting to build a deck, garage, or other addition. For people wanting to build a new home, the rates increase from $50 to $75. Plan reviews for small construction projects will increase from $25-$200 to $100-$500; and for housing projects with 20-50 units, the rates increase from $450 to $1,500. For even larger developments, plan reviews now costing $350-$1,550 will cost $2,000-$5,000. Technical Review Committee analysis will increase from $100 to $800.

Plan reviews for subdivisions will increase from $50-$1,250 to $100-$2,000, and a new $50 final plat fee will be assessed. Rezonings, now costing $350-$750, will increase to $1,000 to $2,500. The cost of a zoning variance will increase from $200 to $500, with appeals increasing from $500 to $800. Grading permits are increasing from $175 to $225; driveway permits, $100 to $150.

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