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  Asheville, NC May Ease Affordable Housing Zoning Laws
The city government of Asheville, North Carolina is considering a move that would give developers access to more land for affordable housing projects. Current zoning laws could be changed to allow developers to build in areas zoned for single-family homes, provided their projects meet certain requirements.

Right now, if a developer wants to build a multi-family structure in an area zoned for single-family housing, the plan has to be approved by the City Council. But some government officials want to create an exemption for affordable housing developments that are built within a quarter mile of public transportation. In order to qualify, the project would have to meet certain architectural standards as well, to ensure a visual cohesiveness with the rest of the neighborhood.

Asheville is consistently ranked as one of the 25 best places to live in the United States. Unfortunately, it also consistently ranks very low with regards to the affordability of its housing. Every year, the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo release their Housing Opportunity Index, which ranks 225 U.S. cities based on their "affordability." Affordability is calculated by determining how many of a city's residents can afford to buy a median-priced house in the area. Asheville often ranks near the very bottom, with a median-priced home being out of reach for nearly 50 percent of its residents.

Opponents of the potential zoning changes say the answer to Asheville's housing woes is the creation of good-paying jobs. However, because Asheville is driven by a strong tourism industry, it has also has a strong service sector, and service-based jobs are typically low-paying. Higher-wage jobs might help some in Asheville, but the service sector isn't going away any time soon, which means the need for affordable housing isn't going away either.

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