The Overlook with Matt Peiken

Finding the Missing Middle | A Housing Panel Discussion from Mountain True

April 03, 2024 Matt Peiken Episode 145
Finding the Missing Middle | A Housing Panel Discussion from Mountain True
The Overlook with Matt Peiken
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The Overlook with Matt Peiken
Finding the Missing Middle | A Housing Panel Discussion from Mountain True
Apr 03, 2024 Episode 145
Matt Peiken

LISTENERS: Have thoughts about this episode? Send them my way!

Middle housing is all the rage in planning and urban development circles—that is, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, clusters of homes with no garages but maybe a shared park, in walkable neighborhoods close to transit. Basically, it's housing with many of the functions of traditional single-family homes but developed with equity, the environment and affordability in mind.

This past week, the Asheville nonprofit Mountain True convened a panel to discuss what’s called the "missing middle"—the absence of the kind of developments proponents believe can turn the tide of Asheville's affordable housing crisis. That conversation happened in front of about 100 people inside Ferguson Auditorium at A-B Tech. The Overlook with Matt Peiken recorded it and is posting it here in its entirety.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

SPONSOR: Asheville City Soccer Club home games run through June 29 for the women's team and July 13 for the men's team at Greenwood Field on the UNC-Asheville campus.

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Show Notes Transcript

LISTENERS: Have thoughts about this episode? Send them my way!

Middle housing is all the rage in planning and urban development circles—that is, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, clusters of homes with no garages but maybe a shared park, in walkable neighborhoods close to transit. Basically, it's housing with many of the functions of traditional single-family homes but developed with equity, the environment and affordability in mind.

This past week, the Asheville nonprofit Mountain True convened a panel to discuss what’s called the "missing middle"—the absence of the kind of developments proponents believe can turn the tide of Asheville's affordable housing crisis. That conversation happened in front of about 100 people inside Ferguson Auditorium at A-B Tech. The Overlook with Matt Peiken recorded it and is posting it here in its entirety.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

SPONSOR: Asheville City Soccer Club home games run through June 29 for the women's team and July 13 for the men's team at Greenwood Field on the UNC-Asheville campus.

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Tonya Jameson: I'm here today to share what we were able to do in Charlotte and hopefully learn from you all, but help facilitate this discussion today on the middle middle, missing middle conversation. 

So I know you're probably wondering, like, why did somebody from Charlotte come up here to participate in this in this conversation. In Charlotte, we were going through something similar to this a few years ago now. We passed our Comprehensive 2040 Plan. But that was after Charlotte.

It's amazing that I'm here because we're always looking at Asheville as the model. So we're always want to be Asheville. We want to be as cool as Asheville. We want to have Asheville's soul. And so it's an honor to be up here. And share a little bit about what we were able to do in Charlotte. So as Charlotte has exploded just like you all have over the last.

20 to 30 years and we grew. We had our skyscrapers. We got so excited when young millennials were moving to Charlotte and they were into like the hot yoga. They were into walking their dogs. And so we finally felt we'd made it. People knew Charlotte as a city. They didn't know us as Charlottesville.

They didn't confuse us with Charleston. And so we celebrated every time a skyscraper went up. But we ignored that people were being displaced as more people moved in and neighborhoods and communities that had for so long been forgotten and had been pushed aside were slowly changing. And so our Planning department decided there were, it was time to redo our zoning and they put forth what was called the Charlotte Comprehensive 2040 plan.

And it was an aspirational plan to have basically 10 minute walkable neighborhoods where you could have a city center, you would have triplexes and duplexes in areas that were traditionally only single family homes. We realized then that in Charlotte we'd only been building single family homes and apartments.

And so we started looking at how do we fill that gap? How do we make it more affordable for people to live in Charlotte? So the 2040 plan was our aspirational plan. The UDO was the framework and the bones of the regulations that would allow it. And when word got out that we were trying to change things and increase the housing types that we had in Charlotte, There was a backlash and there was a backlash on both sides of town.

The more affluent sides didn't want it in their neighborhoods. The less affluent sides were concerned about gentrification and displacement. And so there was a huge backlash and we had our united way pull together some people in the affordable housing space, people in the workforce development space.

The crisis space, like emergency shelters, and then also Sustained Charlotte, which is like our version of Mountain True. And they all came together and put, and be, and we created a coalition to support the 2040 plan to push back on the narratives. That were being put out there and I will say I'm really envious of the coalition that you all are creating here with the diversity of the groups because we have to stop thinking about housing and transportation and child care in these silos.

That we put them in because they all touch each other. And so the fact that you are starting from this position is a position of strength. The challenges that you are going to encounter as you do this, you will be able to work through it once you all decide on what are your actual, what are the things that you can agree on.

and the things you don't dis that you don't agree on, then your organizations can do their own things regarding those various issues. But when you all find your North Star and say, okay, this is what we can't agree on, we do need middle missing middle housing, and how can we get there and work together to make it happen?

So I'm really excited about tonight's conversation. I'm going to be excited to watch and see how you all shape this here in Asheville. 

Andy Paul: I'm also a history professor, and so I'm gonna do a little history lesson, a crash course, how did neighborhood multifamily housing go missing? A hundred years ago, the idea that you would not allow apartments to exist in a neighborhood was a weird idea.

The question is, why did that change? The short answer is that racism created our modern zoning codes, and y'all are like, what? That sounds crazy, so let's talk about it. A zoning code, of course, is a set of rules that a city has that says where things go, right? So before 1910 or so, zoning was just about separating uses.

A factory is one use, and you want to keep that away from residences. That is another use. That's it. Baltimore appears to be the first city to try to use zoning to segregate people. Sorry, Baltimore people. But so this is a new idea in 1910 and in their 1910 zoning code, Baltimore simply says black people cannot buy in white majority neighborhoods and white people can't buy in black majority neighborhoods.

But in 1917, the Supreme Court says, that's crazy, you can't do that. You cannot talk about race in a zoning code. That's it. So that's when they say we gotta have a new idea, and they come up with this idea that we call exclusionary zoning. The question is, can you segregate without mentioning race at all?

That is the question. Okay, so how do they do it? How do you segregate without talking about race? You make it about wealth, you make it about class. So let's try to fig let's try to figure this out. Which of these three options would be cheaper to live in? An apartment in the building on the left, the small lot home in the middle, or the same lot with a or the same home with a bigger lot on the right?

We all know sorry, we don't have time to do participation. We all know that an apartment in the building on the left is gonna be the cheapest to afford. The option in the middle is more expensive because even though your lot is small, you get a whole house to yourself. And the one on the right is even more expensive because even though your home is the same size, you get more land.

Segregationists figure it out pretty easily if you make the first two options illegal to build in the neighborhoods you want to protect. You don't do it everywhere. You do it in certain neighborhoods. We can keep poor people out. And they figure minorities are more likely to be poor. Not perfect, but if you're segregating by class, you can at least segregate by race.

Somewhat as well. I want to really break this down for you all because this is key to understanding the zoning reforms that we are talking about today. And it all comes down to this. More families on less land means that costs are distributed. When you live in an apartment, or otherwise sharing a portion of land, we might talk about flag lots and all that stuff you are sharing the cost of living there.

You are dividing the cost of land. You are effectively, you're effectively teaming up. with other struggling folks, other working folks. So segregationists figure if you can prohibit sharing, if you can prohibit teaming up, then you raise the barrier to entry and you keep poor people out of your neighborhood.

And then finally, not only are you raising the lowest rung, you're raising the bar, but these restrictions also make an area more exclusive because you can house fewer people in that area. So overall supply is constrained. Okay, let's pause for just a second. This is nerdy stuff, right? We are so far from where Baltimore was in 1910, which is just we hate minorities.

This is so much more subtle, it's so much more technical, that it's no wonder why we live with it today. Okay, there's some debate about where the idea of exclusionary zoning first starts. There's good evidence that St. Louis is one of the first. They do it in direct response to that 1917 Supreme Court ruling.

Their code is, their zoning code is written by segregationists, who make very clear that their intent is to segregate, but there is no mention of race in the zoning code itself. The idea spreads. In some cities, leaders go on record to say that it's about keeping Asians out. In some cities, it's about keeping Jews out.

But the language is never in the zoning code itself. By 1923 you have over 200, 200 cities doing it, and at this point the federal government steps in and says, we love this idea, we're going to share resources with every city across the country so that y'all know how to do it. And then finally in 1926, the Supreme Court nine years after we last checked in with them, the Supreme Court says.

Oh, you want to segregate by class? Cool. No problem. Yeah. No worries. Okay. Here's Heather McGee. I'm going to skip Heather McGee. I love Heather McGee, but we don't have enough time. Everyone please read her book. So I've talked about the country. The question is, what happens in Asheville? Is our zoning exclusionary?

Someone needs to spend way more time on this than I could, but I can tell you briefly what I found. The city writes a zoning code in the 1940s and there's no apartment ban. Everything's cool. But we know that in the 1990s it's a different story. There's a big zoning code rewrite and this one cuts the spaces where apartments are allowed dramatically.

This 1990 zoning code is the one that we still have with some minor alterations. It's the one that We still have today. And of course we can talk about banning apartments as not the only form of exclusionary zoning, but maybe we'll get into that. I want to finish up here. I want to stress here the history of zoning in Asheville is not as cut and dry as saying we're all racist.

It's clearly not as cut and dry as saying in the 1970s we were all racist. This isn't Baltimore. This isn't St. Louis. It's a more complicated story, right? But I think we can say that this national trend of exclusion, of segregation, created norms. It created models. It made ideas and those ideas are certainly with us today.

And to be clear, you guys are not racist. If you live in a single family home, That is okay. If all things being equal, you would prefer your neighbors to have detached homes too, that's okay. I promise you don't hate poor people. This is more about thinking deeper about, like, where do these norms come from?

These things that we see as normal and inevitable. Where do we get the idea that apartments should not be in our neighborhoods? That, that every house should have 15 feet in front of our lawns. And then of course who is hurt by these norms that surround us? 

Susan Bean: I am Susan Bean, I am the Housing and Transportation Director for Mountain True and Program Director of Neighbors for More Neighbors, WNC.

I appreciate that history lesson for a lot of reasons. I think it sets some really helpful context for understanding why we have middle housing types already in lots of places across the city. And yet they're almost all older structures. And so I want to talk about why we want middle housing to come back, and why we want more of it in our community again, so that it is not missing any longer.

And I am going to make that case from an environmental perspective, because it is an important part of this story, and a story that I think, a part of the story that I think can be harder to understand or prioritize. But before I do that, I also want to highlight part of the history that Andy spoke to.

And make sure we understand that exclusionary zoning, in addition to many other discriminatory policies and practices, disproportionately impacted historically black neighborhoods within our community. These neighborhoods are sometimes referred to in Asheville as our legacy neighborhoods. And though we don't have a representative here tonight speaking on behalf of the legacy neighborhoods, I just want to point out that the Legacy Neighborhoods Coalition is working on a strategy to address displacement.

And member neighborhoods have requested that there not be any policy changes implemented in their communities until the coalition and the city have had an opportunity to work together and determine the best path forward. Later this evening, we're going to have a QR code up here on the screen, and we will ask you to use it and to send a letter to City Council expressing support for middle housing reform and in that letter, we stand with the Legacy Neighborhood Coalition and asking that changes not be implemented in those neighborhoods until that collaborative effort has had time to play out.

Again, appreciations to Andy for that history, because I feel like it's super hopeful in setting all that in context. Now I want to turn to the issue of the natural environment. Because some people wonder, and I understand it, how can building new housing exist in harmony with the natural environment?

The truth is, as we all know, that the built environment has a tremendous impact on the natural environment. But I don't think we can just stop building new housing. Our community needs more housing desperately. And the missing middle housing study that the city commission, oops. Bumping stuff, need more platforms.

The missing middle housing study that the city commissioned made it clear throughout the report that came out last fall that our current pattern of building mostly single family detached homes will only continue to make housing costs more out of reach. We've got to change the types of homes that we add to the mix.

The report also made it clear that building more housing is a critical strategy to preventing displacement. And we've already pointed to the concerns that some of our vulnerable neighborhoods have about displacement. So I don't think we can afford to stop building housing. The trick is to figure out how to build that housing and where to put it.

According to the EPA, the transportation sector is the largest contributor to man made greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. So the more we build houses further from the places that we need to get to, the more we are accelerating climate change. But if we can build in and up in our city, people can drive less, or they can walk, or they can take transit.

Another major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in this country is burning fossil fuels to heat and cool the spaces that we live in and that we work in and that we shop in. Heating and cooling structures accounts for nearly 50 percent of all energy use in the United States. So if we had less indoor space to heat and cool by building smaller multifamily homes, that would help.

Multifamily structures are more energy efficient in a couple of ways. For starters, the simple fact of sharing walls helps with energy efficiency. And secondly, these types of homes are typically smaller than your average single family detached house. And so there's just less space to heat and cool. A third way that building in and up is a good thing for the environment is that it converts less land like forests or farms into rooftops, roads, and parking lots.

Western North Carolina is home to some of the most biodiverse temperate forests on earth. And the more we sprawl, the more of that unique species habitat we lose. Southern Appalachia has been identified as a hotspot for species at risk of vanishing. And the more we can build new housing within our city, rather than expanding the footprint of our built environment across our mountains, the more we can prevent conversion of currently unimpacted rare species habitat into becoming part of our built environment.

I think it's difficult to think about our neighborhoods in the context of the whole city, and our city in the context of our whole region, and our region in the context of the planet. It's hard when thinking about how and where more housing should be built to know which scale or which level to be thinking about.

Should we think locally about what we see around us each day? Or should we think about our region and how costs of housing are pushing development further from the city center because land is cheaper out there? Or should we think about our planet and how our land use patterns over time on a large scale are contributing more and more to climate change through burning fossil fuels inefficiently.

I don't know the answer to that because it's hard to consider all of those different scales any time we make a decision, but I do think that we have a responsibility to try to consider those varying degrees of impact. And I think middle housing types are one part of the solution to how we can create much needed housing in our community while doing less harm to our natural environment over time.

So I hope you'll join me and us in supporting middle housing reform right here in Asheville.

Shanna Peele: My name is Shanna Peel, and I'm a special education teacher by trade, currently out of the classroom serving as the president of Buncombe County Association of Educators, our public school staff union. I was born in Asheville, and I was raised in Buncombe County Schools, as was my husband. We have three children who attend Asheville City Schools, and with two and a half full time jobs between the two of us, we get by in Asheville.

Sometimes just barely, and sometimes far behind. But always looking to what options there are, what better options for raising our family and staying in this place that we love so dearly. So tonight I'm here with you all, not as a housing expert, but as a lifelong learner and educator. I'm here to learn with you and to share my experience of what it's like to be a teacher in Buncombe County.

And in my role as president of our union, I'm fortunate to have space to visit all of our schools and speak with the staff in those schools and hear what their experiences are, from the bus lot to the boardroom, and what it's like to try and find housing in Asheville, so I can share that with you as well.

I want to start by painting a picture. Imagine this picture, a picture of the dedicated public school teachers and staff who pour their hearts and souls into educating the next generation. These individuals are our unsung heroes, working tirelessly to shape the minds and futures of our students. They are bus drivers who get kids to school safely each day, the cafeteria staff who provide two hot meals and a snack each day for all children, our office staff who make sure that school operations are running smoothly.

So that our teachers can teach care for and love each one of our students, but behind their unwavering dedication lies a harsh reality, the struggle to find affordable housing in the communities where they work. Imagine for a moment being a teacher who spends hours each day commuting to and from work because affordable housing is out of reach.

Picture the stress and financial strain. of trying to make ends meet on a meager salary while grappling with the exorbitant cost of housing. It's a tough reality that far too many of our educators face each day. But the impact of this housing crisis extends far beyond our teachers and staff. It affects the very students that we strive to educate.

When teachers are forced to live far from their schools due to lack of affordable housing, it creates a disconnect. For a gap between educator and student that hinders the learning process. Students miss out on valuable opportunities for mentorship, support, and engagement with their teachers outside of the classroom.

Moreover, the lack of affordable housing perpetuates a cycle of instability for students and their families. Imagine being a child who is constantly uprooted from one home to the next, never having the opportunity to put down roots or form lasting friendships. It's a reality that far too many of our students face, and it takes a toll on their academic performance and emotional well being.

When families are forced to move frequently due to housing insecurity, it disrupts their ability to access education consistently. Imagine trying to focus on your studies, When you're constantly worried about where you'll sleep at night, or if you'll have to change schools again. It's a daunting challenge that affects countless students in our community.

But I am here tonight, as many of you are, for the hope on the horizon, for education on the solution that I know many in our community are researching and planning, the information that we are here to access tonight. Intermiddle Housing A charming and versatile solution to our housing woes. Picture quaint duplexes, cozy triplexes, and inviting townhomes nestled within our communities, offering affordable housing options for teachers, staff, and families alike.

By supporting more middle housing, we can create vibrant, inclusive communities where everyone has a place to call home. Imagine teachers living just steps away from their schools. fostering stronger connections with students and families. Picture families settling into stable living arrangements, free from the uncertainty and stress of housing insecurity.

It's a vision of a brighter future, one where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. But no one can achieve this vision alone. It takes all of us to help, to support the process of engaging each other in conversation, and our enthusiasm for learning and growth, just like I teach my students.

Together, we can advocate for policies and initiatives that prioritize the development of middle housing in our community. We can raise awareness, spark conversations, and inspire action to create a future where affordable housing is not just a dream, but a reality for all. So let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Let's champion the cause of middle housing and pave the way for better outcomes for our teachers, staff, students, and community. Together, we can build a future where everyone has a place to call home and the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Thank you.

Rebecca Chaplin: And now we're gonna speak at this from the perspective of older adults. And you're right, millennials and older adults do have a lot in common. See? I work with AARP and our mission is to empower people to choose how they live as they age. Rebecca Chaplin. And I work with volunteers. So I'm here as a representative right now because it's important that age is at this table, because middle housing is important to all of us, but especially as we age.

But I do want to acknowledge some of our team members that are here, like Laurel and Carol and Bill and Richard, and others, and Bob, and others who really are the voice of AARP in our community. I'm one staff person, we have about 85 volunteers that serve this region. AARP Real Possibilities So today, more people are likely to reach 100 years old than ever.

Planning for longevity means considering the policies, opportunities that come with an increased lifespan. This includes the mental, physical, financial, and social aspects of having more years in life. AARP serves people 50 plus. What do you think the percentage is of people 50 plus living in the city of Asheville?

28801, zip code. 50 plus. Just shout it out, guess. Fifty four. Fifty four, and what did you say here? Seventy. Seventy. Wow, you guys really, you're way higher than I would have thought. Wow, that's close, but you're over. If you were playing the prices right, you would not have won. It is 42 percent of people in 28801 are 50 Okay, so that number's just gonna grow.

It's not just that people are getting older, but the population is also aging. It's a really good thing. Because older adults can contribute a great deal to our communities and lives, as mentioned, their civic engagement and all that people contribute through work and jobs and years of experience and wisdom.

In addition, age contributes financially to our economy. Can you guys hear me? Is this coming through? Okay, great. Older adults, there's something called the longevity economy. Older adults contribute significantly, 8. 3 trillion to the U. S. economy each year. That's 40 percent of the gross domestic GDP.

And about 18 percent of that is based on housing. More than three quarters of older adults would like to remain in their homes and in their communities as they age. Don't you want to stay in your home or your community as you age? Most of us do. It turns out that aging in place is actually more about the community than it is about the home.

People would be willing to move if it meant that they could stay a part of their community to age in place. As active contributors to our community, older adults, they want to live in smaller homes, walkable communities, access to recreation, transit, health, and social resources, right? Just like Millennials.

They have a lot in common. Older adults want to age in homes with universal design features. And I just want to make sure that's really heard, because sometimes what's missing in the missing middle housing conversation is the importance of design features that help people to age in place. We can build homes that help people to have lifelong homes that are good for people of all ages and ability levels.

That's called universal design.

Has anyone heard of the Blue Zones? Did you watch that on Netflix or read the book? It came out a while ago through National Geographic. They did a study of where people live to be 100, where there's high concentrations of centenarians. And they learned some things through this study. And one of those was about community.

Having a community. It's like the volume just picked up, isn't it? Yeah. I don't know. It's living in a community really affects life, health outcomes. And we all know this. We know that social isolation is a health risk factor. But aging in community is a big part of planning ahead and planning for this aging population.

It's called Right Tribe. And those are the friends that have committed to each other for their life. It's easier to age in community when you live in proximity to other people. Another factor in these blue zones, where people live to be 100, more people live healthfully, is called loved ones first. And that means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home.

Research indicates that this improves health outcomes for both the older adults and the youth. My mana from heaven. And I am just so grateful that she has grandparents that are so close that they get to see each other daily. And it's also a big help, to have grandparents around. We all share one thing in common, regardless of your age.

Rosalynn Carter said it best. You either have been a caregiver, you are a caregiver, you will be a caregiver, or you are a care recipient. Nobody escapes this life without caring for someone or being cared for. The reality is about caregiving is that you need to, it's easier to do if you're close by. If you've ever been a family caregiver, it's a lot it's a lot more direct if you can be close to your care recipients.

And we go in and out of needing care in life. It's not like you need care forever, but we can care for each other if we live close to each other. And that is why from an aging perspective, we're at this. AARP contributes to local, state, and federal advocacy, and on the local level it's part of our Livable Communities Initiative.

Housing is one of eight domains that make a community more livable, and we believe in middle housing. So for these reasons, AARP supports this concept with a focus on things like accessory dwelling units. Those little places where your loved one could live close by to you, small footprint homes on the same property.

With universal design features, I just want to make sure that is heard, to help support aging healthfully, with purpose, and in community. Thank you.

Geoffrey Barton: I'm Jeffrey Barton President and CEO of Mountain Housing Opportunities, and we are a local non profit that does all manner of affordable housing activities.

Our mission is to build and improve homes, neighborhoods, communities, and lives, and build hope and dignity in the people we serve. We've been doing this work since 1988 and we have one of our founders here in the audience, Scott Dedman, thank you for showing up and still being a part of the housing conversation locally.

I'm gonna keep my comments very brief and pick up on a couple of threads that Andy left through the history of zoning and talk a little bit about Asheville. And as a preface, maybe the other things is, I'm gonna talk a little bit about my son. I'm here with you tonight talking about missing middle housing instead of being with my three and a half year old son.

And I think that's an expression of how important this conversation is, but it's also an expression of what we need to be thinking about for our future. So I'll return to that in just a second. So here in Asheville we, our history with zoning dates back to 1922 when we had a gentleman named John Nolan.

Our city plan, our first city plan. There's a lot in here that's problematic. There's some fairly racist stuff in here. There's some fairly classist stuff in here. I'm not going to ignore that, but I do want to pick up a couple of things that Mr. Nolan got right. So I'm going to read just a couple of sentences from this 1922 plan.

In Asheville, there seems to be very little need of an elaborate, complicated zoning ordinance. The districts should be kept as simple as possible. Wow, we've come a long way. So Our zoning here is very complicated. It's grown in complexity. And one other thing that Mr. Dolan provided for, he had three districts.

The residence district, the business district, and the industrial district. He placed multi family in the business district. And that was some of what Andy was describing, the exclusionary zoning. But, curiously, in the residential district, here's how he described it. The residential district, what's that?

Cat cafes. Cat cafes. Yeah, we now have cat cafes in our zoning ordinance as an illustration of complexity. The residential district would provide for single and two family houses only with such appurtenances as usually accompany home property. So in 1922, we thought duplexes and single family homes could live side by side.

Wow. Not so today. We have single family districts in the city of Asheville that are restricted to single family residences and exclude duplexes. And this is clearly overdue for change. Fast forwarding to 1997, we adopted our UDO here in Asheville. And as Andy mentioned not a lot has changed since then.

We've made some incremental improvements which have been good and hopefully have some more ambitious improvements on the horizon. In 1996, about half of our land in the city of Asheville, you could build multi family development. After the 1997 UDO, that went down to 25%. Conversely, our single family zoning went just about tripled in, in the amount of land area in the city that was reserved for single family.

And with the exclusion of duplexes, you can see This is how we have gotten to the place we're in. Missing middle housing isn't just missing by accident. It's missing by intention. And that intention is to protect and preserve a lot of things that have no business being protected and preserved anymore.

We can do missing middle housing and we can do environmentally responsible growth. So we're really excited to be part of this conversation with environmental organizations and educators and AARP just to show that there's a broad coalition and there's broad interests in bringing more housing to our community.

I promised that I'd return to my three and a half year old son, so now we'll end with something just a little fun. And I'll tell you a little bit about his eating habits. My son's a really sweet kid but when we offer him the foods that we want him to eat, he loves them. Sometimes he's a little resistant.

We have read really great books to him about vegetables are great. They'll make you strong. They'll make you healthy. And he usually has one of three responses. Curiously, his first response sometimes is, Yes, please, I'll eat all the vegetables on my plate. I'll eat all the spinach. I'll eat all the carrots.

Thank you. And I'll clean my plate. And he feels happy and satisfied afterwards. Sometimes He's a little skeptical and he'll say, maybe, but what am I going to get out of it? And so then we have to enter into this complex negotiation. We have to study the issue for months on end. We have to hire consultants to come in and tell us, you know what, vegetables are good for you.

And if you eat them, we'll all be better off. And then it's that third reaction. That's really tough on us. When we put that plate of vegetables and instantly get, no, I don't want vegetables. Don't give me vegetables. I don't need vegetables. I've been fine without vegetables forever. I've been eating ice cream.

I've been eating graham crackers. I don't need vegetables. Not in my back teeth.

And that's the reaction that's really tough for us. We have to step away. We have to let him have his response, his negative response to the vegetables. And then we return and hope that he'll maybe try one carrot. We'll And he takes a nibble. And after that first nibble on the carrot, you know what he says?

Say, I like vegetables. That's where we are in Asheville right now. We have indulged our imbalanced housing diet for far too long. And it's really time that we diversify our housing options in the community. Missing middle housing reforms in our zoning ordinance are a great mechanism to do just that. And frankly, it's time that we eat our vegetables.

Thanks.

Tonya Jameson: I love that. I still can't eat carrots, but I love that analogy, though. Yeah. Alright for some of the some of our, let's go through some of our, the card questions that we have. So, is a component of missing middle philosophy to target already concreted infill of urban environments close to amenities.

such as transportation, schools, etc.? And I will start saying that one of the challenges that we have in Charlotte is that we were not as direct about really trying to get the zoning to make sure it is near transportation, so we are Facing that challenge now where we're seeing a lot of the missing middle being built in areas where there is not access to transportation So the fact that you're asking this question now And this is the top of mind is critical to make sure that you are bringing this up to your city council, too. But I will pass the mic down to which panelists would like to ask this answer this question All right.

Andy Paul: I'm glad that question came up because that seems to be a big misunderstanding when I talk to people. So you can take something like the Ferry Road project that the county is developing off of Brevard Road, and sometimes, and it's going to have some townhomes, and sometimes it's described as missing middle, and I think we can say it's middle housing. But it's not missing because the missing component describes the fact that this housing should be in our core residential neighborhoods and in neighborhoods where there are schools, where there are amenities, where it's close to jobs. And I think this is the hardest thing for people to understand because they want their maybe hardest thing to absorb because they want their neighborhoods to stay the same.

But I think this is something that Opticos, the group that did the whole 150 page missing middle study. I think it's something they're really clear about, is that this is not about going into the hinterlands. It's not even about changing, some of the roads off of like north of north of North Asheville, north of the Grace neighborhood, where it's like the roads are all tenderly.

This is about focusing on the core parts of the city. The parts that were around a hundred years ago the parts that are most grid because those are the ones that are going to create more walkable opportunities.

Susan Bean: And I would add to that, although middle housing types are most successful, according to the study, in the areas where you do have access to transit and you do already have schools and grocery stores and things like that.

When I try and think about the different levels and the different scales that our county, our region, our world needs housing and where to put it, I tend to think a little bit broader than just the major transportation corridors within our city, and I think that some of the missing middle housing types Could easily be accommodated and could be very successful across our city.

Think about an A DU or something as simple and like low, like gentle density as a duplex. I feel like those types of housing and middle housing could really be easily accommodated in any of our existing neighborhoods, but maybe some of the higher end, middle housing types like the courtyard apartment buildings or I don't know, four story, like

Yeah. Some of the townhomes or something like those would probably be a much better fit on major transportation corridors or within walking distance of all the amenities that we want to get to. But I want us to think, just to think a little bit more flexibly, a little bit more creatively about what kinds of housing can be accommodated in different neighborhoods, because I don't think that there's a single clear answer to where it works and where it doesn't work.

I think there's a lot more nuance and variety in there.

Geoffrey Barton: I completely agree, and I think one thing that we have here in Asheville is topography, so it makes every lot different, and we really need to embrace flexibility in the rules that we create for ourselves to allow that diversity of housing types to unfold. I'll give one example of some development that Mountain Housing Opportunities has done along Clingman Avenue.

Coming down into the River Arts District. Clingman Lofts is an urban style condominium building, three stories very pedestrian oriented, close to the sidewalk. And then if you walk along a sidewalk just beyond Clingman Lofts, you get to Prospect Terrace, which is it's exactly what we're talking about, this middle housing typology, where it's a mixture of quadplexes and cottages.

That all seamlessly bridge that transition back into the neighborhood, but it's a neighborhood that has some topography issues. And so if you if we had applied to prescriptive rules, we may have gotten vastly different results. But the flexibility to provide that gentle density as we go into the neighborhood was really important just in the Clingman Avenue area.

Tonya Jameson: How will middle housing initiatives incorporate affordable units and prevent overdevelopment of luxury upper income units? I will pass it on, but one of the things I'll say about this though is even if you have the luxury income units that are being built, that's going to free up the existing housing that's more affordable and make it more affordable for people.

So that, that's my two cents on it.

Andy Paul: Again, this is one of the things that's most confusing. Because when we hear the word affordable, everyone has a different definition of what it means. The word affordable means, according to the federal government, it means it doesn't take up more than 30 percent of your income.

The city has a sort of a different definition, where they're talking about housing that's creative or created, incentivized by particular policies. Often that they have to spend money. For it's a tricky question. The truth is all sorts of people live in the city. All sorts of people are moving here and everyone needs housing.

And so if you can build a housing unit, that's not subsidized and a family will live there, that's a good thing because it means they're not going to monopolize. I think as Tony was saying, they're not going to monopolize another home. But in a way, this question will missing middle have an affordability component?

It's a confused question. It's if you were proposing free pre K. And someone said what about free college? They are two different programs, ones that could work together symbiotically, things that we need both of those things. I'd love free pre K, I would love free college.

But missing middle reform is really about a particular set of policies that we can impose without having to spend any money, which is cool.

Tonya Jameson: And I think when you talk about retirees who want to downsize from being in a single family home, then it is affordable to move into a duplex or a triplex.

So you're not paying as much for your mortgage, et cetera. So that, that for that person is going to be affordable. So does Asheville currently have any incentive for building developers to provide? Missing middle housing. So do you all have any incentives in place already, like tax abatement, whatever?

Geoffrey Barton: I'll talk, so I'm going to put my Planning and Zoning Commissioner hat on for a second. I should have mentioned that I'm also on the Planning and Zoning Commission with Susan, although nothing that I'm saying tonight is the full opinion of the Planning Zoning Commission or the city of Asheville that said we, I would say we have more barriers to missing middle than incentives that a while ago, the city did a really dramatic thing quietly by allowing any residential lot to have two dwelling units on it.

So that was a very dramatic change that a lot of other cities have. And we have followed suit. We also allow ADUs and we have continued to tweak the rules on how we can do and encourage and incentivize ADUs and there's more coming in the missing middle reforms that will help with that.

One of the challenges that we see often is That there's lofty parking requirements, and so the parking requirements sometimes offset some of the good incentives that exist within the zoning ordinance. So that's something that I'm really encouraged that the Missing Middle and other, comprehensive zoning ordinance reform conversations are looking at the whole picture instead of just let's provide a density bonus if you provide some affordable units.

Because. Yes, that's a great thing, but if you're going to require a sea of parking, then it doesn't become a feasible development type. That's kind of, a lens into my take on the zoning ordinance. 

Tonya Jameson: I was telling Jeffrey earlier we have triplexes and our planning department is going to make a recommendation to change and require that the triplexes only be built on corner lots because exactly what Jeffrey said, we have a sea of parking right now, the way they're being built in front of triplexes and that's not attractive and that's not what communities want at all and one of the things to think about as you all are tackling this is that.

Whatever your zoning comes up, your city comes up with, this is like living and breathing. So there are opportunities to change, tweak and manipulate as necessary as you try things and it doesn't work. Or as you try things and you're like, wow, this is working great. And how can we do more of it?

So don't feel like whatever you, whatever is put in places is concrete. Last question, and then we'll wrap it up and call it a night. How can communities protect themselves from developers who just want to co op the term, missing middle?

Geoffrey Barton: That's a tough one. And I'm gonna just put in a plug for a really great book by Shane Phillips called The Affordable City. This book is really a policy guidebook on how to achieve affordability across the board. And in this book, his philosophy is there are three pillars. Supply. Subsid sub subsidy and stability and stab.

The stability pillar is really the preservation of our existing communities. It's something that the missing middle housing report, in my mind, does phenomenally by investigating anti displacement strategies and these are the recommendations that are going to be coming through and talked about for adoption in our zoning ordinance will have already been looked at from an anti displacement lens, and that's a real that's a real coup.

That doesn't always happen. We often employ planners to provide planning advice, but This study embraces the notion that we do need to do a better job of protecting our existing communities from gentrification and displacement. I'm really encouraged by that. The anti displacement strategies in the Missing Middle Report really closely align with that.

Some of the policy recommendations in this book, the affordable city and recognize increased production of housing within the vulnerable communities as an anti displacement strategy in and of itself. So there's, it can't happen just with supply. It needs to happen with other protections in place. But supply is certainly the thing that we need to focus on before we can really do anything else.

Tonya Jameson: What I took away from tonight's conversation, I know you all took away some different things, but one of the things I took away was we're not all racist, but we are comfortable. You can laugh, but we're comfortable with our norms and current models. We don't like change and that, that is very true.

Increased density makes housing more affordable. Consider the concerns of the legacy neighborhoods and support them as they also are wrestling with this and the concerns regarding gentrification and displacement. Millennials and, oh, this is my lightbulb aha moment, not gonna lie.

Millennials and older adults have a lot in common. And when Rebecca laid those out, I was just like, and I'm neither, I feel like, but maybe I am. Aging in place is more about community than the home. Constantly moving disrupts our children's learning because they can't find an affordable place to live.

One of the things I want you all to. Think about as you as we wrap this up. Is that By coming here tonight and the coalition that came together to put this on and will continue to work on this issue is that you're being preventative as you all approach this. Oftentimes we are reactive to things when they come down from whether it's zoning or whether it's from city council, etcetera.

But You all are being preventative, and so you should definitely applaud yourself on that. But you also have an opportunity to shape how your city grows. And I want you to think about this as you're thinking about how you're shaping how your city grows. You're not just shaping it for yourselves.

Realistically, you are shaping it for your children and your grandchildren. That's who we're talking about. The zoning and the things we're talking about we're putting in place, it's for those who are coming after us. And I was telling Rebecca that a new lending tree study came out in January of this year, That 62 percent of young Americans live near or in their hometowns.

So these are really your kids that we're talking about and grandkids that you're putting these policies in place for. So do not miss out on the opportunity to do that. So one of the questions is when might middle housing come to Asheville? And jot this down April 3rd at 5 p. m. Planning and zoning will hear a presentation from city staff about phase one of middle housing reforms for city council April 8th at 5 30 Join neighbors for more neighbors wnc for virtual meeting with details in Mountain True staff and program volunteers to discuss the issues further and get More into the details about middle housing reform.

What it might look like in our community, may 14th at 5 p. m. City council will review phase one, a proposed middle housing reform. All right. As I said. Really get involved with Neighbors for More Neighbors and Mountain True because they're going to be the people that most likely the city is talking to.

They're going to be the people that the media is talking to. So you really are going to have a larger voice in this than you may have had in the past. So take advantage of it and make yourselves heard. With that, thank you all very much for coming out.

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