Question & Answer Fact Sheet (updated January 14, 2021)
What are the development details?
- Unit Matrix- 42 deeply affordable apartments (24 1-bedroom, 12 2-bedroom, 6 3-bedroom units)
- Area Median Income (AMI) Limits:
- 12 units @ 80% AMI (2-person family earning up to $42,500)
- 8 units @ 60% AMI (2-person family earning up to $31,870)
- 22 units @ 20% AMI (vouchers) (2-person family earning up to $16,910)
- See page 2 for explanation of Area Median Income
- Location- Currently a City-owned parcel on Asheland Avenue (between the businesses of Rexel at 157 Asheland Ave. and Alcova Mortgage at 261 Asheland Ave.)
- Project Cost- $7.7 million
- Ground Floor Community Space (5,500 square feet)
- Next Step- Proposal to be voted on by City Council in February 2021
Who is proposing this affordable housing development?
Eleven years ago, Haywood Street Congregation (haywoodstreet.org) began as a ministry of radical inclusion in the homeless corridor of downtown, a wide embrace for congregants excluded elsewhere. Among the afflicted, we heard the distressed cry for food (Welcome Table), healing (Respite), clothes (Outfitters), visibility (Fresco), belonging (Worship), and a permanent address. After six years of pursuit and preparatory work, we recently formed Haywood Street Community Development, a separate sister 501(c)3 with its own bylaws and distinct board, to start building deeply affordable housing.
What’s the mission statement of Haywood Street Community Development (HSCD)?
“Presenting keys at the back of the line first, HSCD is called to deeply affordable housing designed with dignity, built for belonging, and created to frustrate poverty with a forever home.”
What credibility does Haywood Street have to do housing?
Since 2009, Haywood Street Congregation has located on the precarious margins of ministry. Rather than engaging in transactional social service, our inspired charge is life together. Following our church mission statement, “Relationship, above all else,” we have refused to serve from a comfortable distance perpetuating the dangerous stereotypes of us versus them. Instead, we’ve loitered on the corner of poverty, ear to the cracked concrete, carefully listening to the faint voice of the silenced. There, bound up in the meaningfulness and messiness of family, we’ve taken careful notes on the experience of displacement, the exhaustion of sleeping under the noisy overpass, the agonizing wait on the housing list, the perilous decision to stay with an abuser because he has a spare pillow. Through countless acts of intentional solidarity, we’ve been gifted with a profound understanding that informs our proposal.
What will this development do to my property values?
Research concludes that most affordable housing- specifically smaller attractive new construction- not only does not depress property values, it often increases them. For specific articles, see:
Is more affordable housing even needed?
Yes, desperately so. Asheville’s in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. While more workforce housing (80-120% AMI) would be significant, apartments targeting the lowest Area Median Income limits (30% and below) are urgently needed now.
Patrick Bowen- a housing needs assessment expert commissioned by the City of Asheville to conduct a study in 2015 (updated in 2019)- concluded that 45.9% of renters are cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on rent and 19.3% are severely cost-burdened, spending more than 50% of their income on rent. 54,000 adults and 20% of all children in Asheville live in poverty. 6200 units are considered substandard, 90% of subsidized housing operates with a waiting list, rent has increased 5.4% annually since 2014, and no affordable vacancies exist for low income renters.
According to the report, over 6000 units are needed in Asheville and the four-county region (Buncombe County, Henderson County, Madison County, Transylvania County). As concerning, according to the yearly point in time count, over 500 people remain homeless on the streets of Asheville.
Wanting bold action, City voters overwhelmingly passed a $25 million bond for affordable housing in 2016. In response to such alarming statistics, the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, and the Dogwood Health Trust all identified affordable housing as a top priority.
Defining Area Median Income- The median income for all cities across the country is defined annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The calculation (based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey) determines eligibility. The Area Median Income (AMI) is the midpoint of a region’s income distribution – half of families in a region earn more than the median and half earn less than the median. For housing policy, income thresholds set relative to the Area Median Income identify individuals/ households eligible to live in income-restricted affordable housing. HUD defines 30% AMI as “extremely low income,” 50% AMI as “very low income,” and 80% AMI as “low income.”
What is the City doing to incentivize more affordable housing?
Incentives include low interest loans through the City of Asheville’s Housing Trust Fund, Land Use Incentive grants for projects with a percentage of affordable units, property tax abatements, expedited review, fee rebates, and selling City-owned parcels for $1.00.
How are the Southside and South French Broad neighborhood residents being engaged?
In late February 2020, Haywood Street Community Development reached out to key constituents. Due to pandemic conditions, communication was stalled for months, and as the shelter-in-place directive paralyzed the world, nothing happened with housing. As talks with the Community Development Department restarted, the City instructed HSCD to pause formal neighborhood engagement until after presenting to the City Housing and Community Development Committee (HCD). Since the Committee voted on November 17, 2020 to recommend our proposal to City Council, HSCD has reached out to non-profits, businesses, associations, and neighbors who expressed both approval and concern. Phone calls and emails were exchanged, totaling over 125 contacts and counting.
Why not build affordable housing on another site?
We’ve pursued multiple lots owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Duke Progress Energy, and private landowners for over six years without gaining site control. Land downtown is selling for more than $1 million per acre, an astronomical figure. Utilizing City-owned parcels is often the only way forward for mission-driven projects with modest revenues. Further, most safety net providers- ABCCM, AHOPE, Dale Fell Health Center, Buncombe County Health Department, Minnie Jones Health Center, Pisgah Legal, the Western Carolina Rescue Ministries, Salvation Army, and the City Transit Depot- are downtown within walking distance of the Asheland site.
Was a Request for Proposal (RFP) submitted?
No. The City did not conduct an RFP (a process for bids from contractors on a project) for the Asheland parcel. Following Resolution No. 19-229, Asheville adopted a policy to use City-owned land for new affordable housing and created a list of available sites, including the Asheland parcel. Haywood St. approached the City with a nascent vision and the invitation to partner, a process open to any developer.
Will Haywood St. congregants be given preferential treatment?
No. All of the 20% AMI apartments (22 units) are set aside for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders. Managed by the Housing Authority, Eblen Charities, Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH), and Homeward Bound, these agencies keep internal lists of prioritized applicants. Haywood St. will post general advertisements for available apartments, inviting candidates with qualifying incomes to apply following a documented screening process.
Can a church receive public land and taxpayer monies?
Technically, yes. However, while a significant percentage of affordable housing across the country is sponsored by faith-based organizations, the Establishment Clause in the US Constitution encourages the separation of church and state. Following the lead of other groups, Haywood Street Congregation formed Haywood Street Community Development, a distinct non-profit, for this purpose.
What are you going to do about the trees?
With nearly a dozen mature trees growing on the site, many thriving on the eastern edge, every attempt will be made to preserve the existing canopy. However, for every tree that requires clearing, four saplings will be planted elsewhere on the property.
What makes your proposal distinctive?
Intended to be forever homes, our apartments will be constructed with quality materials. Units will include 9’ ceilings, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), balconies, stainless steel appliances, stone countertops, washer/ dryer hookups, internet, and more. The façade will include HardiePlank lap siding, metal canopies, brick veneer, exposed timber columns, an urban dwelling with architectural intention, designed to look and feel market-rate. Our pro forma includes robust property management and ground/ facility maintenance.
Certain the isolation of poverty doesn’t end with a set of house keys, a Director of Community will be hired to nurture life after move-in day. Tasked with visiting residents in their living rooms, remembering birthdays, sharing meals, finding holy excuses to congregate, and, when necessary, the director will interrupt resident estrangement through relationship.
Convinced blended communities are the healthiest communities, our proposal includes various income levels (80%, 60%, and 20% AMI) and offers 1, 2, and 3-bedroom apartments. While efficiencies and cramped quarters are typical in older developments, our units will have separate living quarters for families, actual bedrooms with a door to close.
Believing community requires community space, our building has 5,500 square feet set aside on the ground floor for onsite services. Appointments won’t require leaving children at home and negotiating three bus stops. Instead, it’s only an elevator ride downstairs. At least weekly, regular access to services could include a pantry by MANNA Food Bank, community nursing by Givens Estates, access to an attorney by Pisgah Legal, therapy by CareNet, listening circles and resiliency training by Resources for Resiliency, case management by Homeward Bound, recovery groups, and more.
Will the neighborhood have access to these onsite services in the community space?
Yes. And, as engagement continues, neighborhood priorities will be reflected in the space as well. Based on current conversations, suggestions include workout and yoga classes, black business incubation, peer support, mentoring, visual arts, a fresh market, and an outdoor community flower and vegetable garden.
Comments and Conversation:
Haywood Street Community Development is eager to listen, believing neighborhood opinion is critical. If you are interested in our proposal, either supportive or critical, we would like to hear from you. If you are interested in offering feedback to improve our vision/ design/ layout/ site plan, we would like to hear from you. All comments are welcome.
To reach Rev. Brian Combs for an in-person meeting (safely distanced wearing masks), either one-on-one or with a small gathering, please contact him at email@example.com or 828.246.4250.
To remain current about project updates, please email Haywood Street Community Development at firstname.lastname@example.org. To correspond by letter, the address is Post Office Box 2982, Asheville, NC 28802.
Haywood St. Community Development Board Roster:
Leslie Anderson, Leslie Anderson Consulting, Inc., Chair
Meredith Ellison, Symmetry Financial, Treasurer
McKenzie Dillingham, M.G. Dillingham Residential Construction and Haywood Street Congregation Board member, Secretary
Jim Barrett, Pisgah Legal Services
Nancy Bennett, Haywood St. Congregation Companion and Board member
Tiffany Knowlin Boykin, Wesley United Methodist Church, Columbia, South Carolina
Mark Collins, Collins & Company
Kayla Lynn Denham, Haywood St. Congregation Companion
Nikki Epsie, St. Paul’s Preschool
Tyrone Greenlee, Christians for a United Community
Bill Haggard, Haywood Street Congregation Board member
Corry Hyde, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County
Holly Jones, NC Department of Justice
Jeanette King, Mission Hospital and Haywood Street Congregation Board member
Montreal Littlejohn, Haywood St. Congregation Companion
Lee Anne Mangone, UNC-Asheville Adjunct Professor
Sala Menaya-Merritt, Buncombe County Justice Services
Thomas P, Haywood St. Congregation Companion
Teresa Stephens, Givens Communities