by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
A compassionate plea written to the editor of the Mountain Xpress has stirred some debate. Ariel Harris asks why Asheville can build too many hotels and not have enough roofs to shelter the homeless, some of whom actually die due to exposure. Harris lists some solutions, which, for all her compassion, I believe will not help. They include government, government, and government. For example, the city could pass “a mandatory housing inclusion act in each building that is permitted to build in Asheville,” spend one cent (taxation, not literal terms) from the tourist tax on housing for the homeless, building on land trusts, or requiring hotels to open their unused rooms.
Respondents bring up many reasons why some of these ideas will not float. Myself, I foresee drunk, dirty panhandlers (Detractors are welcome to form a picture of me in their minds when I say that.) weeing on the carpet of the Hilton and roughing up guests. Harris is more compassionate than me. She would give and continue to stay at the Hilton, but I think the action would soon mean no more Hilton. The common-taters got into a discussion on rights, with excellent points made by the defenders thereof. Even so, those arguing exclusively from the demand-side expect data centers to keep the communists’ smartphones running when the tech companies open their doors for anybody to come in, loot, and hack. Call me a Randroid, suffering from Ayn Rand poisoning to boot, but I don’t remember hearing of any society in history that, by striving for equality in all things, rooted evil, selfish intent out of the hearts of those wishing to game the system. Corrections are welcome.
Most importantly, I maintain we have a proliferation of hotels and a shortage of low-income housing because of government. Not everybody can afford an $800 flat, but that’s the best that’s available. I think as many people as want to should be able to share a bathroom or a kitchen. Minimum housing codes kick people out on the street by creating of a false dilemma between staying warm and dry or being out in the elements. Modest, imperfect housing should be available for those who want to provide for themselves.
But the design review processors approve hotels while passing on low-income apartments for neighborly fear of downward pressure on property values, more often than not expressed in terms of ecohazards and traffic crises. The moral of the story is, “Asheville is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
As a parting shot, I’ve never earned enough to own my own place, so I’ve never had the privilege of taking in the downtrodden.