Asheville NC to hire affordable housing staff

While filling three vacancies in the Department of Community and Economic Development, Asheville executives plan to focus on affordable housing, hoping to “meet the needs” of the community, according to department director Nikki Reid.

This decision follows the Community development program director Paul D’Angelo leaves in November, and Appointment of Reid to the permanent position of department head, also in November.

Reid was previously the city’s real estate program manager. His promotion, the departure of D’Angelo and another vacant position left three vacancies in the department.

Reid said the influx of changes left him with a lot to consider, namely “how do we want to move forward?”

She announced the update at the Jan. 6 meeting of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.

Nikki Reid, Director of Community and Economic Development.

Related: Another city of Asheville leaves: affordable housing chief quits after 2.5 years on the job

Rather than rehiring for D’Angelo’s exact role, the city will advertise a community development division director.

This role will be the first to be announced, Reid said, and will be responsible for supporting the work of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal funding programs.

On a separate but parallel track, she said the department is creating a new division to focus specifically on the city’s affordable housing programs. It will include an affordable housing development officer, with the support of an affordable housing development specialist.

“It really reflects how we want to reorient our ministry to meet the affordable housing needs of our community,” Reid said, “but also focusing on how to support our role in federal programs.”

Affordable housing has long been a central issue in the city. Data show that the area needs thousands of new housing units to meet demand as the population continues to grow, but many apartment and house hunters are struggling to find anything they can afford.

Asheville, plagued by low wages and the state’s highest cost of living, uses income rates to define affordability, linking what is considered affordable rent to 80% of the median income in the city. region, or $ 42,100 for a one-person household.

Following: Welcome to Asheville: The highest cost of living in North Carolina, but with low wages

Committee chairman Barry Bialik said the committee had lobbied since D’Angelo left for staff to focus “explicitly” on affordable housing.

He said the city needs someone who can lead the effort, lead projects from their inception, make sure they are successful and attract more sellers.

Bialik praised D’Angelo’s work, but noted that the role had “so much on his plate that he could never do more than just turn the plates.”

Following: Affordable housing in Asheville for whom? Mosley offers a break to study equity

With more support for existing projects, he hopes more affordable housing opportunities will open up so the city can afford to be selective.

“I think it was a really good step, and I think having this team of two people, a leader and someone to back that up, is a really smart decision,” Bialik said. “It puts faith and hope in the process.”

Committee members skeptical of “moratorium” discussion

Also at the January 6 meeting, the committee addressed a conversation initiated by City Council member Antanette Mosley.

At a meeting of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee on Dec. 2, she urged the city to withdraw from its affordable housing initiatives and funding in order to study racial disparities and find ways to address them. make it fair.

Mosley said his idea was not a “moratorium” but rather an expectation to “see if we can align what we say our values ​​are with our actual production.”

Related: Buzzword to bricks and mortar: Asheville’s affordable housing efforts reduce need

Mosley first broached the subject at Housing and Community Development Committee meetings, when she asked the demographics of tenants moving into new affordable housing built with city incentives, and whether the one of the developers who built them were black-owned businesses.

In a Jan. 6 conversation with the Citizen Times, Mosley said his position had not changed.

“It’s still my philosophy that we have to study it, and if that means stopping it to get fair results, so be it,” she said.

Committee members, like Bialik, have expressed concerns about what a “pause” would actually mean, fearing the imminent maturity of the city’s bond funds – a $ 25 million bond loan approved by voters in 2016 that he has about two years to go.

While he and other committee members have said moving forward in a fair manner is a priority, they want to pursue these goals without disrupting the city’s work.

Related: Asheville Office of Equity & Inclusion Finally Hires Staff, Moves Forward with Repairs

Committee member Andy Barnett said he had many more questions about what a “break” would look like, but said he felt it was a situation where “we’ll just have to walk. and chewing gum at the same time “. analyze data and commit to making equitable development-oriented decisions while continuing to move projects forward.

“A beat quickly becomes a full rest measure if we don’t really have everything defined before implementing it,” Barnett said.

Reid said city leadership has yet to issue direction to change the current process and “we are continuing to operate as usual.”

Bialik said that even though things are moving slowly, “a car heading towards the finish line must be kept in motion”.

“We’ll have to watch over the next few months whether the idea of ​​a moratorium, or hitting a pause button, was just a bold statement made to draw attention to an issue, or whether it ‘ is something that could go towards some sort of action. ,” he said.

Mosley said she will continue talking to stakeholders and collecting more data – hoping to meet staff and bring information to the Housing and Community Development Committee in the weeks to come.

“It’s very scary to think of shutting down completely when we’re basically at a time when rental rates are going up, but I think because we have an urgent need this is the right time to do it.” Mosley said.

“Because what’s going to happen eventually is we’re going to build, build, build, build and keep leaving out the people who need it most. And then we’ll come to a place where we can’t. go back. ”

Sarah Honosky is the municipal government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Topical advice? Send an email to [email protected] or a message on Twitter to @slhonosky.

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