The photo of the day is an old motel turned into apartments on Weaverville Highway. The post, now, the post is something I have been working on all day and it is not finished. Look for part two tomorrow.
Affordable housing is getting a lot of media attention in Asheville right now. My friend Gordon Smith, who is a city councilman, wrote an op ed today for the Mountain Xpress about the importance of affordable housing, and there have been quite a few articles written by various Ashevilleins talking about their experiences and affordable housing and yada, yada. My best friend, who works for a poverty focused nonprofit, asked me to write one. You’re perfect, she said, a single mother who has struggled to live here! So I said I would.
Actually, though, after several days of thinking about it and thinking about it, I won’t. I can’t. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the main ones is that while I like, respect and admire Gordon, who is a great council person as well as a totally awesome person to hang out and drink beer with, I don’t think that these days I share his vision for Asheville and what affordable housing seems to mean in this context. I’ll warn you now: a lot of what I have to say is going to come off as somewhat offensive and I don’t want to upset people. So you may want to stop reading here. The thing is, I don’t like creating ghettoes for (young) white people, and all these “mixed income” “affordable” projects are, frankly, just that. It’s a project, but don’t worry! You won’t have to live with actual poor people! You can feel safe in your middle class life right here surrounded by other people like you. And it’s affordable! Yeah, there’s no yard, and it’s not an actual house – this city is full of houses, but you can’t have one, they’re for rich people. You get an apartment. I don’t want an apartment and I never did. If I wanted to live in a fucking apartment, I’d live in a real city, somewhere I could make a decent living, like Atlanta or New York.
I have to say here too that I don’t think anything can happen to improve affordable housing in Asheville without some big, big changes – and even those won’t work, nothing, but nothing, will work without living wage jobs. That needs to be the priority. That’s where quality of life hinges and without them it’s all a stopgap. Unfortunately, I don’t see them developing any time soon and I recognize that with a state legislature who will destroy anything done by the city to create them, there’s nothing, or very little, the city can do to help them along. As far as housing is concerned, I don’t think that drastic, socialist measures like rent control are going to be enacted to make actual affordable housing a reality here, so that’s another reason I don’t want to write this. Without rent control, without demanding that every single damn housing project built include some affordable units, without measures to help out lower income homeowners and homebuyers and repair existing housing stock, this is all a pipe dream.
And – here’s the main thing, I don’t like increased density. I hate, really hate, the way there’s a new house being built on every tiny half lot in West Asheville. I hate the way the neighborhood has changed. If it was going to change it needed sidewalks, not more expensive vertical houses with no yards that make the neighborhood look stupid and only add traffic woes and more desperate people willing to work for starvation wages to the mix. There are too many people here now. The infrastructure can’t sustain it. The growth needs to stop. Most definitely we don’t need more people moving to Asheville. See? I told you you wouldn’t like it.