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What One Asheville Woman is doing About Gentrification

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By Greta Bush

As Asheville continues to land on national “Best of” lists, it is experiencing tremendous growth, and with that comes gentrification. In this article, we focus on why gentrification can be a problem and how one young woman is making an effort to prevent it.

 

Kate Rasche moved to Asheville seven years ago to start a new job, unaware that her move could be tied to the growing gentrification affecting the city. She quickly fell in love with Asheville’s eclectic culture and creative vibe. She is grateful to have bought her house in west Asheville in 2012, just before housing prices began recovering from the 2008 crash. Three years later, a short supply and an influx of growth led the city to announce it had an affordable housing crisis.

She feels lucky for her good timing and is now acutely aware that she has contributed to the housing shortage. Kate wanted to join the community, not change it. She never intended to drive up property values and push out lower earners!

Kate wanted to do something to counteract the rapid gentrification in Asheville, and that’s why she joined Asheville Habitat’s #build828 club. Donating a small amount every month is her way to support income diversity and prevent gentrification that pushes people out.

What is Gentrification?

Gentrification occurs when lower cost neighborhoods start to attract wealthier residents. As a result, this can drive up house prices and rents, and drive out long time, lower income residents such as local artists. Gentrification often has a larger impact on ethnic and racial minorities. It always changes the social character of a neighborhood.

The positive side of the process is that homeowners are invested in their neighborhoods. Therefore, they repair or rebuild homes that had been neglected or open businesses in areas that might not have had them.

Why Habitat, and Why #build828?

Kate recognizes that it’s the people who make Asheville the city that she loves. The artists, musicians, and wait staff in this foodie mecca add to the culture, but are often lower earners. Consequently, without supporting those who tend to earn less, the city’s character won’t be preserved. Homeownership is a key to housing stability, and for Kate, “is part of the American dream…having a piece of the world to call your own.”

Originally from Knoxville, TN, Kate had previous experience with Habitat for Humanity in high school. She volunteered with Habitat through a school club and even took a trip to Americus, GA with the group. That’s where she learned about Habitat’s roots. Kate knew Habitat provided stable housing for people with low incomes, and she trusted the organization.

A few months ago, a quick Google search led her to Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s #build828 club. It’s a sustained giving club whose members make regular monthly donations. #build828 is a way to answer the affordable housing need and members enjoy benefits like an annual 40% off coupon to the Habitat ReStore! Kate decided that joining could be a way of “shoring up the community that she is a part of.”

Kate’s reasons for joining #build828 made sense:

  • From her administrative work experience, Kate understands the value of regular contributions. It helps any organization to plan ahead and keep their fundraising goals on track.
  • Kate didn’t have a big chunk of money to make a one-time donation. Signing up to make small monthly donations could really make a difference for Habitat and would better fit her situation.
  • She knew that if she were to buy or rent property now, her monthly payments would be much higher. So she felt a call to donate some of the money she is able to save every month to #build828. It’s her way to help others afford homeownership and combat the effects of gentrification.

Habitat for Humanity’s Role

Habitat for Humanity builds and repairs homes—so why is that work not contributing to gentrification? First, Habitat repairs homes so that lower-income residents can stay in their home even as the costs of homeownership rise. Second, Habitat builds affordable new homes in partnership with low-income qualifying buyers so that working class folks can achieve homeownership. Often, the cost of an Asheville Habitat mortgage is less than what the buyer had previously been paying in rent.

Habitat homeowners are artists, bus drivers, food service employees, social workers, healthcare staff, musicians, and more. They contribute to the heart and soul of Asheville’s creative and welcoming vibe. If you’re interested in supporting Habitat’s work and helping more of our neighbors build better futures in the foundation of stable, affordable housing, consider joining the #build828 movement.

Why does Kate think gentrification is a problem?

  • She loves the character of her neighborhood, where an artist lives across the street from her and the creativity in West Asheville is palpable at nearly every turn.
  • She’s worried that rising rents and home costs will force creatives to be unable to live here for much longer. While their contributions to our city’s culture are rich, their work tends to bring in lower wages.
  • She knows this is already happening. Such is the case with “Abby the Spoon Lady” (real name Abby Roach) a downtown performer who declared at a June 2019 City Council meeting that Asheville’s growth is pushing out musicians and artists, including herself. Abby said this would be her last summer in Asheville.

Join the Movement!

If you’re looking for a way to counteract the effects of gentrification, consider joining Asheville Habitat’s #build828 movement! Even $10 a month, the cost of a Netflix subscription, makes a difference. And, the more people who join, the bigger the impact! Not able to give yet? Help us spread the word and consider sharing Kate’s story with a friend. Have your own story to tell? Let us know.