Standing Up for the Buncombe County Comprehensive Plan

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It has become incredibly difficult to purchase a home in our region, particularly inside Asheville city limits. Due to low inventory, the desirability of our area, and the current nationwide financial situation, homebuyers are in a bind. There is a particular group of citizens who make up the backbone of our local economy and government that are being adversely affected by the current state of the housing market.

According to the Urban Land Institute, "workforce housing" is defined as housing affordable to households earning between 60 and 120 percent of area median income (AMI). Workforce housing targets middle-income workers which includes professions such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, health care workers, retail clerks, and the like (Parlow, 2015). This integral group of any community is being squeezed out of the area where they work. As a former teacher, I can relate to this situation. I was fortunate enough to arrive in Asheville when a teacher’s salary could buy you a small home in West Asheville. Today, an educator’s salary can barely support an individual, much less a family trying to purchase a home.

The secret is out on Asheville and the surrounding areas in Buncombe County. People are rapidly relocating here and growth is inevitable. I’ve witnessed it myself over the course of my 20 years here. For Buncombe County and Asheville to grow sustainably and provide for its workforce, a vision has to be in place to account for this group and for that matter, the entire region. That vision is the Buncombe County Comprehensive Plan (BCCP).

I advocated for the BCCP during the May 2nd Buncombe County Planning Board meeting. One of the main reasons I stood up for the BCCP is our current lack of workforce housing. I implored the board to look at the current state of the housing market and how my clients, including teachers and county employees, are struggling to find a home. It was my first attempt to step into a public discussion of this nature as a young agent. I stepped away from the podium feeling good about my contribution to the conversation surrounding this critical moment in the BCCPs approval.

A few weeks later, the BCCP cleared its final hurdle and has now become the guide to development in our county for the next 20 years. I wish to emphasize the word guide. Many opponents of the BCCP assumed that it was more of a “here is what is going to happen” type of document rather than “here is a vision of what we would like to happen” document. The residents opposed to the BCCP (often referred to by the term NIMBYS) saw proposed development over the course of 20 years and immediately envisioned 500 unit apartments popping up in their respective neighborhoods breaking ground faster than they could run outside and picket the new construction! What they fail to see is that by saying no to further development, they are stunting the positive growth of our region. How can Asheville sustain its government, its education system, and its businesses if it doesn’t provide affordable places for the people who run those institutions to live? Through this entire process, I have seen how important it is to educate the public on matters that affect them. Given this humble platform, I will continue to stand up for what I feel is right for our community and its residents.