Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: Why can’t Asheville be a rent-controlled city in appropriate circumstances (not those $10,000 a month houses/apartments, certainly). Other cities have rent control for long-term residents, especially. Why can’t Asheville go that direction to assist with affordable housing?
My answer: When my wife and I first moved to the area in 1995, we rented a 3-bedroom, two-bath house on an apple farm in Edneyville for $450 a month. The place is now a museum in tribute to the halcyon days of affordable housing in the mountains.
Real answer: First and foremost, Asheville — or any other city or county in North Carolina — can’t do this because of state law, namely general statute 42-14.1, aptly titled, “Rent control.” It states:
“No county or city as defined by G.S. 160A-1 may enact, maintain, or enforce any ordinance or resolution which regulates the amount of rent to be charged for privately owned, single-family or multiple unit residential or commercial rental property.”
The law does not prohibit cities or counties, or any authorities they create, from:
- Regulating their own properties.
- Entering into agreements with private persons which regulate the amount of rent charged for subsidized rental properties.
- Enacting ordinances or resolutions restricting rent for properties assisted with Community Development Block Grant Funds.
Also, “affordable housing projects are generally exempt from North Carolina’s rent control provisions found in G.S. 42-14.1,” according to a May 16, 2022 post on the UNC School of Government website titled, “Local Government Support for Privately Owned Affordable Housing.” Public housing, such as that operated by the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville, is also allowed.
The author of the post, C. Tyler Mulligan, a professor of public law and government at UNC’s School of Government, starts out by acknowledging North Carolina’s “massive” need for affordable housing.
“According to 2019 census data, over a million North Carolina households are ‘cost burdened,’ meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing,” Mulligan wrote. “Almost half of those are “severely cost burdened,” meaning they spend more than 50% of their income on housing.”
Mulligan also stated that the government alone doesn’t have the resources to build and operate the needed housing units, and no near-term publicly owned housing solution is viable, either. That means the private sector will have to step up.
“However, public-private partnerships of any kind are legally fraught — the constitutional order in North Carolina, and in almost every state across the nation, was designed to prevent state and local governments from aiding or interfering with the private sector,” Mulligan wrote. “Elected officials and attorneys, who took oaths to uphold the state constitution, understandably wish to tread carefully.”
Former State Rep. Brian Turner (D-Buncombe), who finished his service in the General Assembly Dec. 31 after an eight-year run, says not to expect changes in the law to accommodate rent control.
“I would say given the current makeup of the legislature, any legislation to change the law wouldn’t even get a committee hearing,” Turner told me, referring to the Republican-dominated legislature. “And even if the legislature changed, I don’t know that it would get a hearing.”
Turner, who lived in New York City, which does have rent-controlled apartments, says rent control brings its own set of problems.
“Basically, rent-controlled apartments become these unicorns, where they become almost like a hereditary title in medieval times,” Turner said. “Someone gets in one, and then when they move they stay on the lease. Then their cousin, their sister, their brother, their kid lives there. So those units never really seem to rotate back into the pool.”
Turner says limitations on short-term rentals, which has become a trend in North Carolina cities, including Asheville, is probably more effective in putting more apartments and houses on the regular rental market.
“I’m kind of a supply-and-demand guy,” said Turner, a commercial real estate broker who does not work in the residential field. “Let’s increase the supply. Let’s make more opportunities to subdivide property, let’s create better density bonuses than what current policy allows for. There are a lot of other levers that can be pulled that don’t rely on over-regulation in the market.”
Current State Sen. Julie Mayfield (D-Buncombe) told me there’s “no real chance” of rent control happening in North Carolina.
“And while it certainly is a good deal for renters, I have heard it has some negative consequences,” Mayfield said. “I’ve never really looked into it because it’s not been an option here, but I’m sure there’s good information available about the pros and cons of it.”
Question: It looks like Mission Health has bought property in Candler, at least according to land transaction records: Pulliam Crowell LLC and Crowell Farms Holdings LLC sold 34.73 acres on Crowell Road and Holbrook Road to MH Mission Hospital LLLP, 5440 W 110TH ST # 400, Overland Park, Kansas for $18,750,000 on Aug. 30, 2022. That was after buying the tract from Thrash, Thomas L. and Thrash, Lora R. for $1,903,500 on June 2, 2022. Impressive profit margin. What is Mission planning on doing with this property? Do we have hospital wars coming?
My answer: I’m wondering if Mission might buy my third of an acre lot for a couple million bucks. I’m pretty sure they could squeeze some kind of medical building on it. OK, maybe a vaccine shot kiosk.
Real answer: “Yes, Mission did purchase this property for future medical care buildings, however, specific use has not yet been determined,” Mission spokesperson Nancy Lindell told me via email.
Mission did, through the state’s Certificate of Need program, apply to build “freestanding emergency rooms” in Arden and Candler. These were approved, although another hospital has appealed the decisions, so Mission is now calling them “urgent cares.”
But the land acquisition in Candler is not for the ER/urgent care. That site is located at the intersection of Smokey Park Highway and Brookside Circle, Lindell said, noting that work has not started there.
The Arden location is under construction.
Mission also had applied to build a 67-bed hospital in Buncombe County, but that would have been at its Biltmore Avenue location, not in Candler. AdventHealth, based in Henderson County, won that certificate of need application battle, beating out Mission and Novant Health. AdventHealth plans to build on an Enka site.
So, we’ll have to stay tuned to see what Mission does with this Candler land.
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 337-0941.