Asheville, North Carolina truly has a character unlike any other. Its downtown has emerged as a funky and eclectic area for musicians, artists, brewers and restaurateurs alike. Its artsy vibe, combined with the gorgeous scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains, makes Asheville’s overall mood wholly unique, artistic and even spiritual in nature. Every year, more and people make Asheville their long-term home, either in retirement or as a starting place for young families.
This has caused challenges: the popularity of Asheville has been both a blessing and a curse for its housing market, and locals are feeling the struggle. In recent years so many people have flooded the market that homes in the 200k-300k range have all but disappeared from Asheville proper. The average market price is $375k and still moving, however for first-time home-buyers or younger, smaller families looking for affordable housing, availability within Asheville is seriously lacking. A lot of locals have found themselves asking “how did this happen?”
Factors Leading to Asheville’s Affordable Home Challenges
Experts say a number of factors created Asheville’s housing market squeeze. First, Asheville was one of the quickest and most resilient cities to bounce back from the credit crash a few years ago. This was great news at the time—homes were moving like nowhere else in the country, and for a few years buyers truly had their pick. But supply quickly dried up. Homes were bought up and remaining supply saw a significant price hike. Further, new home builds were seriously lacking: As of May 2016, only 154 new properties had been built post-credit crash—a staggeringly low figure for a town of Asheville’s size and popularity.
The other problem is that as home prices increased, wages didn’t keep up. The inventory of homes under 300k all but disappeared, but median income in Asheville has remained around $37,000—an insufficient household income to support mortgage payments on a 300k home. Locals relying on local salaries have essentially been priced out of their own market, to the chagrin of Asheville. Today, it seems that the only buyers able to find homes in Asheville are retirees or transplants from comparably expensive markets like New York or Florida. So, what are locals who want to stay in Asheville to do?
Asheville’s Plan for the Future
Fortunately, there are a few long-term plans in play that could turn the tide. Experts surmise that wages will ultimately rise, albeit slowly. Further, the local government may approve changes to city ordinances which would support smaller and more affordable living options in Asheville. Infill housing would allow the re-zoning and renovation of existing, vacant plots in the downtown area for construction of multiplexes or small single-family units. The code would also change to allow for reduced minimum lot requirements, a must if single-family homes are going to exist on small, urban plots of land.
These forthcoming changes could provide Asheville’s current residents with a sigh of relief. For first-time buyers hoping to get a slice of this mountain paradise, the dream is not yet gone. A shift in local wages and a re-thinking of city codes could mean that affordable housing in downtown could become a reality. In the meantime, many locals have shifted their thinking. Affordable housing is still available in Asheville’s suburbs like Woodfin or Weaverville. Looking just outside of Asheville might be the current solution to affordable living in this highly desirable area until big, long-term changes happen in the market.
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