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45% of renters in Asheville area struggle to make ends meet, housing report shows

Affordable housing report
This year’s housing assessment shows the housing market in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties is struggling to keep up with the region’s booming population. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Affordable housing continues to be an issue in the Western North Carolina, according to a new housing study.

Every five years, the city of Asheville does a regional assessment of housing needs in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties.

This year’s assessment shows the housing market is struggling to keep up with the region’s booming population.

“Because we have a lack of supply and there is a tight vacancy rate here, it kind of allows some of the property managers and developers – they have the rents that they can charge that are higher, because they know that people want to live here and they are willing to pay that extra amount,” city of Asheville Community Development Program Director Paul D’Angelo said.

The study shows 45 percent of renters in the Asheville area are struggling to make ends meet.

While homeowners are doing slightly better, with 21 percent financially burdened, the study shows the number of affordable homes on the market is decreasing.

D’Angelo said five years ago, about 2,000 homes were listed in the region under $300,000. In March 2020, there are about 750.

“In Asheville, the wages, incomes, and salaries that we produce here, there is a mismatch with the actual housing costs in Asheville, renter or homeowner,” D’Angelo said.

Asheville's Homeward Bound Executive Director, Meredith Switzer said the rise in number of people struggling to pay bills contributes homelessness in the area.

"Certainly not having affordable housing makes it much more difficult and can start that cycle,’ Switzer said.

The non-profit’s goal is to find solutions to homelessness, Switzer said a big part of that is available affordable housing.

“We often times will have grant funding for placing clients into homes and it’s a struggle for us to find where we can send that because we can’t find units that are available,” Switzer said.

The city said an option to increase housing options is to encourage property owners to charge rent that matches Asheville wages, and provide funding for future developer to incorporate affording housing into their plans.

“They do 10, 20, 30 percent of their units affordable, so we get a nice affordable mixed income community,’ D’Angelo said.

The city is also looking at possible regulations that could be put in place to manage the rising costs of housing.

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