Interview with Patricia Furnish on AshevilleFM

I had a long-form interview with AshevilleFM’s Patricia Furnish via Zoom on September 30th. It subsequently aired in two parts on AshevilleFM News Hour on October 12 & 19. LOGOPatricia has kindly provided a single, hour-long mix-down file of my responses to the program’s substantive and challenging questions on their Google drive. (There are about 15 seconds of silence at the beginning of the file, and then the questions begin.)

 AshevilleFM News Interview Furnish/Tovish

I hope you’ll find it worth your time.

City Council Comments 10/25/22

Tuesday’s City Council Meeting addressed a wide variety of important City initiatives. My first comment was to support the designation of the Walton St. Pool & Park as a historical landmark. I see this as a first step toward acknowledging the history and celebrating the legacy of Asheville’s Black community.

Manufactured housing (also known as mobile homes or, pejoratively, as trailer park homes) represents an essential affordable segment of Asheville’s housing market. We need to ensure the habitability of this housing stock, and this adjustment to the zoning code will allow old units to be replaced by new ones, now built to a much higher standard.

Ultimately, manufactured housing needs to be destigmatized, and much more widely integrated into our city neighborhoods.

In which I make a modest proposal for the use of Housing Trust Funds to upgrade substandard rental properties to Section 8 code, with the proviso that landlords subsequently accept Housing Opportunity Vouchers to these renovated rentals. This is yet another way to increase the supply of affordable housing to those who need it the most.

Coalition Forum of City Candidates 10/20/22

I was honored to participate in the excellent Bilingual Candidate Forum hosted by Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council, Asheville Buncombe Community Land Trust, Bountiful Cities, CIMA, Just Economics, Poder Emma, and the Racial Justice Coalition. These groups are leading the way in vital community-building; city government should be supporting and empowering them, and all our residents.

Property Assessment Issues Affect City Decisions

I attended the Buncombe County Commission meeting on July 19 to comment on two issues before the Commissioners. The first concerned providing annual line-item funding for the ongoing work of the Reparations Commission. The second addressed the disturbing findings of Urban 3, under the direction of Joe Manicozzi, that clearly show a pattern of the County assessments undervaluing the property of wealthy property owners and overvaluing the most modest homes, and especially cost-burdening homeowners in legacy Black neighborhoods.

I’m also pursuing an investigation into the problematic nature of Land Incentive Use Grants that depend on speculative or initial valuations on property value, which then pass on to whomever owns the property for the term of the grant agreement, no matter what happens to the subsequent value of the property. In many cases, this probably makes LUIG agreements a bad deal both for the City (substantial foregone tax revue) and for residents who may end up having to make up the difference for that missing revenue as the City’s financial needs grow.

FYI, here’s an eight-minute video wherein Mr. Manicozzi outlines the fax assessment disparities. I urge you to view it.

The Case for Automatic Tax Grants/Rebates

A recent article in the Asheville Citizen Times, discussed the large price tag associated with a much needed tax grant/abatement program that the County and City offered last year.

I have to say, this was really frustrating. When the County and City first proposed this rebate/grant, I strongly advocated for it to be automatic, based on a formula involving length of home ownership (over 10 years) percentage increase in valuation (over 25%), and actual assessment value (under $300k)—obviously the specific formula could be tweaked to target those suffering most from increased taxes.

Had the County and City Council done this, no one would have had to jump through application hoops. The abatement could simply have been applied to the tax bills of those who qualified, using information local government already has in its property database. Many more would have appropriately received relief and staff time would have been reduced to almost nothing.

Yes, it’s possible a few might have received abatements they didn’t truly need. But the huge reduction in staff time and the much broader and easier distribution to those actually in need would have far outweighed that.

I hate to say “I told you so,” but I did.

[This video comment about automatic tax grants makes reference to equity issues around Asheville’s stated reparations goals. Generational wealth is built through home ownership, and these tax grants can help legacy families keep their property and stay in Asheville.]