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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: County should OK affordable housing project

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners has a good record in helping to create jobs. Next week, the board will get a chance to do something for the people that work those jobs.

The Henderson County Planning Board made an abrupt and unwise decision last month when it voted unanimously to recommend denial of a rezoning that would allow a 64-unit affordable housing project on Pisgah Drive off U.S. 64 just west of the Laurel Park. The Housing Assistance Corp. is seeking a rezoning of 5.6 acres from residential to office and institutional zoning so it can move forward with the proposed Rosebay Apartments to provide housing for lower-income working people.
The Board of Commissioners should give the Housing Assistance Corp. the chance to get the final OK on the project, which would result in a $7.6 million investment and construction jobs during the building phase.
The Planning Board's decision came after neighbors raised objections based on traffic and density, somehow making the implausible sound credible — that a loop road that contains two nursing facilities, a large medical clinic and a condo development before ending at a shopping center is a country outpost isolated from urban uses.
For all the work it has done on the project, the HAC came woefully underprepared to rebut the predictable opposition to any project with the words "affordable" or "subsidized" preceding its name. We were glad to hear that the agency and its supporters and board members are not giving up. They are pressing the case that commissioners ought to OK this very worthy project. (Planning Board member Marilyn Gordon has changed her mind and urged the commissioners to vote yes.)
The need for affordable housing for working families has been well-documented by several local studies. Housing like this has been at or near the top of the priority list of agencies from the United Way to the Children and Family Resource Center. The City Council put a stamp of approval on the project Thursday night by agreeing to waive $175,000 worth of water and sewer impact fees.
The Housing Assistance Corp. has a good record in building safe, attractive housing for the elderly and for working families. The Rosebay application earned a perfect score from a state housing agency. It received a $420,000 vote of confidence from the Asheville Housing Consortium. If commissioners say no on May 12, that money is gone and the $7.6 million project is dead.
"Other counties tried to get that money," said HAC Executive Committee member Jim Robertson, who has served on the agency board since 1998. "Because of Housing Assistance's track record and because the need is so high in Henderson County for affordable housing, we got the majority of the money that was doled out in 2014."
During the current primary campaign, when asked about affordable housing, the three incumbent commissioners and their four challengers have signaled they would do what they can to provide more. The moose at the table has been the fact that the Rosebay project is sitting on the board's docket at this very moment. Here's a campaign promise that can make good on six days after the election. To strike a blow for affordable housing for workers, all the commissioners have to do is vote yes on the Pisgah Drive rezoning request.