Media Kit

Family Friendly Affordable Buncombe – Next Steps for Success

Recommendations for local public investments to build on an historic first year

Media Contact:
Greg Borom, Director of Advocacy at Children First/Communities in Schools
E: GregB@childrenfirstbc.org P: 828-423-0698

Feb. 18, 2020

Last year, Family Friendly Affordable Buncombe (FFAB) called for significant new public investments in the intertwined, foundational issues facing families: early childhood education, housing affordability, and transit. Elected leaders at the City of Asheville and Buncombe County stepped up and allocated $4.5 million in new funding to meet the FFAB requests in Fiscal Year 2020 (July 2019-June 2020). 

Now is the time to build on this momentum for local families. Additional investments in these three areas yield educational, health, and workforce benefits that pay off now and in the future for our county. As City and County leaders begin budget preparations for next fiscal year (FY21 begins July 1, 2020), here are the Family Friendly Affordable Buncombe budget recommendations:

Early Childhood Education - $1,900,000 additional

Increase the County’s Early Childhood Education Fund to $5.5M ($1.9M increase)

FFAB applauds the Buncombe County Commissioners for creating a $3.6M Early Childhood Education Fund (with a 2% annual increase) and establishing the County Early Childhood Committee. Staff leadership worked quickly to seat the Early Childhood Committee in time to review the first year of grant applications before the May budget vote. 

However, when past commitments to early childhood and to local school districts were tallied, the committee only had the ability to consider and fund $1.9M (not $3.6M) in new funding from grant requests exceeding $9M. If the County had allocated $3.6M in new funding for the Early Childhood Fund instead of counting existing spending, the total would be $5.5M. This investment level will help the county attract additional private and philanthropic investments that will be noticeable and meaningful for working families seeking affordable, high-quality opportunities for their young children.

What this investment provides: 

  • Maintaining and supporting quality, affordable early childhood programs staffed by great teachers – due to state funding issues alongside local workforce issues, we face a real threat to our capacity to enroll young children. This funding can promote well-paid, well-educated teachers and provide more parents affordable options for their young children.  
  • Increased trauma responsive supports for early childhood programs to build the skills and relationships between families, teachers, and children that support success and resiliency.

Housing Affordability - $1,500,000 additional

Increase the County Housing budget to a minimum $5M ($1.2M increase)

FFAB celebrates the new $1.4M in the County budget for housing and the creation of the new Affordable Housing Committee. And, the new committee is already having to make impossible choices with funding requests to the Affordable Housing Services Program (AHSP) exceeding available resources. Recently, the committee was unable to fully fund important home repair and new construction proposals that are essential to addressing our local housing crisis. 

FFAB supports increasing the county allocation to an annual minimum of $5M as well as creating a separate funding application process for new construction loans/grants from the other AHSP funding areas. As the County finishes its funding commitments to the Lee Walker Heights redevelopment, the County should set targets and develop a funding stream to help leverage construction using the 4% Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. 

City Housing Trust Fund allocation of $600,000, with additional funds for other non-construction initiatives that support housing affordability and access (minimum $300,000 increase).

FFAB recognizes the support City Council provides to the Housing Trust Fund and implementation of the City’s $25M affordable housing bond that will wrap up in 2024 with expanded homeownership and rental investments. FFAB proposes increasing the allocation to the Housing Trust Fund by $100,000 for a total of $600,000. Additionally, the City should have funds ($200,000 minimum) available for innovative efforts that could increase utilization of Housing Choice Vouchers and provide general operating support to support the Asheville Buncombe Community Land Trust in creating permanently affordable housing, among other ideas.

What this investment provides:

  • 200-300 new affordable apartments/homes approved to begin construction.
  • 100+ existing homes renovated to keep existing residents in safe, affordable homes. 
  • 20+ new families able to find a place to rent with Housing Choice Vouchers – there are over 200 Housing Choice Vouchers in our county that go unused because of low vacancy rates and unwillingness from some landlords to accept the voucher for payment.

Transit - $4,200,000 additional

Full funding for Year 1 and Year 2 of the Transit Master Plan $4.4M ($3.2M increase)

FFAB thanks for City Council for making Transit their #1 priority in 2019 and investing $1.2M in additional hours in 2020. FFAB continues to support full implementation of the City’s Transit Master Plan (TMP) that will add hours of service, more frequency, and new routes to our City’s bus service (ART). This funding request will cover the full-year costs of the TMP expansions for the first two years of the 10-year plan.

County funds to maintain existing transit service and assist in preparations for local transit to implement fare-free service – estimated at $1M ($1M increase)

FFAB thanks the County for expanding transit routes on Leicester Highway and keeping the County’s Trailblazer Transit system fare-free. A recent proposal from Commission Chair Newman to use county funds to expand fare-free service to the ART system would be a major step in supporting the Transit Master Plan – which includes fare-free weekends under the first year’s plan.

What this investment provides:

  • ART routes running until 10 PM or later (Mon-Sat, Sunday routes until 8 PM) making transit more viable for families working in service and retail jobs and able to attend evening school events.
  • Increased bus ridership as fare-free both supports the household economics of current bus riding families and attracts new riders that opt to leave a car at home – a win for congestion and air quality in the County.

 

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The FFAB Effect: New Funding for FFAB Agenda Captures 76% of FY20 New City/County Revenue from Mission Sale

Media Contact:
Greg Borom, Director of Advocacy at Children First/Communities in Schools
E: GregB@childrenfirstbc.org P: 828-423-0698

August 13, 2019

The Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe (FFAB) Campaign launched in fall 2018. Leadership from three broad based community coalitions -- the Asheville-Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative, the Success Equation, and the Asheville Regional Transit Coalition -- came together to support this visionary plan for investing new property tax revenue from the sale of Mission Health to HCA by building on past successes and current best-practices to:

• Expand high-quality, affordable preschool to all children;

• Increase the number of apartments and homes affordable for working families; and

• Connect families to jobs, schools and amenities with frequent and reliable transit.

Early (but inaccurate) projections of the sale of Mission Health suggested $15M in new combined tax revenue for the City of Asheville and Buncombe County in FY20 and were the basis for FFAB’s original funding requests of $12M. Because nonprofits do not pay property taxes in NC, the sale of the nonprofit Mission Health to the for-profit corporation HCA means that the city and county will assess and collect property taxes in FY20. The chart below compares the actual FY20 tax revenue generated from Mission Health properties now owned by HCA in FY20 to the amount of new investments made by the City and County in the three FFAB priority areas. Notably, these new investments ($4.5M) equal over 76% of the new tax revenue from HCA ($5.9M). 

FFAB’s first year funding results & goals: 

Early Childhood Education: $1.9M increase. The County continued its commitment to existing contracts from last fiscal year alongside the new funds under its newly created $3.6M Early Childhood Education Fund. FFAB’s original request: Establish a public-private Early Childhood Trust (County) with a minimum $3M annual fund. 

Housing: $1.4M increase. Including the new funds, the County budgeted $3.8M total for affordable housing efforts in FY20 and established an Affordable Housing Committee. This investment will support more affordable rental and home ownership opportunities. FFAB’s original request: Increase funding for Buncombe County’s Affordable Housing Services Program by at least $3M. 

Transit: $1.2M increase. The City of Asheville committed $10.2M to transit services that includes the additional $1.2M in FY20 to implement the first phase of the Transit Master Plan (TMP) beginning in January 2020. FFAB’s original request: $6M to begin implementing the TMP – $3.2M for year one with additional funding for rapid implementation and reserves for subsequent year priorities. 

What’s next?

FFAB is encouraged that our local government shares a commitment to early childhood education, housing affordability, and transit. We plan to build on the significant investments made in FY20.

Early Childhood Education: FFAB applauds the Buncombe County Commissioners for creating a $3.6M Early Childhood Education Fund (with a 2% annual increase) and establishing the County Early Childhood Committee. Staff leadership worked quickly to seat the Early Childhood Committee in time to review the first year of grant applications before the May budget vote. FFAB is now focused on the following:

• The County Commissioners and Early Childhood Committee should re-evaluate moving local school district funding under the $3.6 M Early Childhood Education Fund. Our school districts need the flexibility to meet their mandated services for providing public K-12 education. Their preschool/early education efforts shouldn’t compete with county funding for their core services.

• The County Commissioners, Staff, and Early Childhood Committee should review the role the Early Childhood Education Fund can play and be an active partner in leveraging private and public funds to make our young children a top priority. This year the Fund received over $9M in grant requests, with only $1.9M in available (new) funds.

• The County Early Childhood Committee should leverage the resources of program/policy expertise on the committee and in the community to chart a multi-year vision and strategy for the Early Education Fund.

Housing: At the City of Asheville, FFAB supports the continued $500,000 budget allocation to the Housing Trust Fund and implementation of the City’s $25M affordable housing bond that will wrap-up in 2024 with expanded homeownership and rental investments.

FFAB celebrates the gains in the County budget and the creation of the new Affordable Housing Committee. Moving forward, FFAB supports the County aiming higher for its annual funding for housing affordability to reach $5M in order to support a proposed Homeward Bound project, continue support for the next phase of Habitat for Humanity’s Old Haywood Road project, leverage new development via the public/private Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, and expand the County’s Affordable Housing Services Program to support its six key funding areas:

• Low-Interest Construction Loan Program

• Emergency Repair Program

• Down payment Assistance Program

• Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program

• Buncombe County Permit Fee Rebate Program

• Buncombe County Employee Housing Assistance Program

Transit: FFAB continues to support full implementation of the City’s Transit Master Plan (TMP). We have requested, and City Council agreed to, a mid-year review of the budget and transit system stability, and if funding and stability look good, to plan implementation of the TMP recommended evening extensions as soon as possible in 2020.

Thanks to everyone that has supported this effort! We look forward to keeping the momentum going as we protect these initial gains and advocate for additional investments that enrich opportunity for a Family- Friendly place to call home! Get involved at familyfriendlybuncombe.org 

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 31, 2018

Historic Vote to Establish a $3.6 Million Buncombe County Early Childhood Education & Development Fund Applauded

Media Contact:
Greg Borom - Children First/Communities in Schools, Director of Advocacy
E: gregb@childrenfirstbc.org; P: 828-423-0698

Asheville, NC – Parents, early childhood teachers, doctors, and advocates rallied support in the days leading up to last night’s Buncombe County Commission vote to create an Early Childhood Education and Development Fund. With bipartisan support, the Commission approved steps necessary to create an annual $3.6 million Early Childhood Education and Development Fund to address the critical needs for affordability, access, quality, and workforce training to better serve children birth – preschool across the county.

“County Commissioners have worked over the last two years to elevate early childhood development as a strategic priority and began funding several important initiatives,” notes Amy Barry of the Buncombe Partnership for Children. “Yesterday’s vote takes that commitment to a new level and will help our community leverage additional investments that will benefit young children, their parents, employers, and our schools for years to come.”

This decision moves one-third of the recently launched Family-friendly, Affordable Buncombe initiative forward. Supported by three coalitions and numerous community voices, Family-friendly, Affordable Buncombe calls for a $12 million annual investment in early childhood, housing, and transit funded by the County and City of Asheville using new property tax revenue from the anticipated sale of Mission Health. While the Commissioners have not finalized details on funding the $3.6 million Early Childhood Fund, the amount aligns with Family-friendly, Affordable Buncombe’s recommendation.

“This new investment is a big step towards ensuring our county is a family-friendly and affordable place to call home,” said Vicki Meath of Just Economics. “Transit, child care, and housing promote family economic mobility and benefit our entire community.”

Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe is an initiative by the Asheville-Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative, Success Equation, and the Asheville Regional Transit Coalition to leverage the unique opportunity provided to our community by the sale of Mission Health in order to make our region more affordable for Buncombe County families and workers. For more information or to endorse this effort: familyfriendlybuncombe.org.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 15, 2018

Oct. 15 Press Conference Announces Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe Initiative for Mission Health Deal Property Tax Revenue

Media Contact:
Greg Borom - Children First/Communities in Schools, Director of Advocacy
E: gregb@childrenfirstbc.org; P: 828-423-0698

Asheville, NC – On Monday, October 15, local parents, alongside business, health and nonprofit leaders held a press conference to announce the official launch of Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe. The initiative advocates for the property tax revenues from the upcoming sale of Mission Health to be allocated toward community-wide investments in early childhood education, homes and apartments that are affordable for working families and better public transit.

At the press conference, Buncombe County parents Kaitlyn Guyer, Ebony Grayson-Reece and Rachelle Sorenson-Cox shared personal stories of challenges with these issues. Other speakers included Executive Director of Children First/Communities in Schools Natasha Adwaters, Executive Director of Buncombe Partnership for Children Amy Barry and CEO of Mountain Area Health Education Center Jeffrey E. Heck, MD.

The Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe initiative was created by a core group of coalitions who have been researching and working on these issues for years: the Asheville-Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative, Success Equation and the Asheville Regional Transit Coalition. “This tax revenue is an unprecedented opportunity to invest in working families and the future of Buncombe County,” says Natasha Adwaters, executive director Children First/Communities In Schools. “Family Friendly Affordable Buncombe’s plan moves us closer to a county where all families can access high-quality preschool for their children, live in homes and apartments that are attainable for working parents, and rely on a public transit system that runs on time, all day, and more often.”

Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe is a response to long-existing difficulties faced by Buncombe County residents. Buncombe County homes cost 4.2 times more than the county’s median income, and 51.5% of renters are considered “cost-burdened” — meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. Additionally, the average Buncombe County family with two adults spends $4,428 on transportation every year, and the average annual enrollment fee for high-quality preschool is $9,300.

Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe is an initiative by the Asheville-Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative, Success Equation, and the Asheville Regional Transit Coalition to leverage the unique opportunity provided to our community by the sale of Mission Health in order to make our region more affordable for Buncombe County families and workers. For more information: familyfriendlybuncombe.org.

 

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Full Video of Press Conference

FFAB one-pager (pdf)

Photo Assets

(click on images to open full-size photos)

CEO of Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) Jeffrey E. Heck speaks at the Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe press conference.

From left to right: Natasha Adwaters, Executive Director of Children First/Communities In Schools; Kaitlyn Guyer, Buncombe County parent; Jeffrey E. Heck, Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) CEO; Ebony Grayson-Reece, Buncombe County parent; and Rachelle Sorenson-Cox, Buncombe County parent.

Buncombe County parent Ebony Grayson-Reece speaks at the Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe press conference.

Amy Barry, Executive Director of the Buncombe Partnership for Children, speaks at the Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe press conference.

Speakers converse at the Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe press conference. From left to right: Jeffrey E. Heck, CEO of Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC); Ebony Grayson-Reece, Buncombe County parent; Rachelle Sorenson-Cox, Buncombe County parent; Amy Barry, Executive Director of Buncombe Partnership for Children.

Vicki Meath, Executive Director of Just Economics, answers questions from the audience.

Director of Advocacy for Children First/Communities In Schools Greg Borom answers questions from a reporter.

From left to right: Buncombe County parent Kaitlyn Guyer, Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) CEO Jeffrey E. Heck and Buncombe County parent Ebony Grayson-Reece.

Photo courtesy of the Asheville Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative
Photo courtesy of Mountain Housing Opportunities
Photo courtesy of Just Economics
Photo courtesy of the Asheville Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative
Photo courtesy of Mountain Housing Opportunities.
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