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Affordable Housing Task Force Requests UDO Amendment; Looking at ‘All Possible Scenarios’

By Paul T. Choate

Feb. 7, 2013. Concerns persist on the availability of affordable, workforce housing in Boone. On Monday, members of the Affordable Housing Task Force and community members spoke during the Town of Boone quarterly public hearing.

In a proposal submitted to the town on Feb. 2 by the Affordable Housing Task Force, it was requested that the current Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) be amended to encourage more development of family oriented, workforce housing.

The requested amendment would allow for no more than two unrelated persons to live within a unit in new developments. Additionally, in every unit with two or more bedrooms, a “master suite” bedroom that is at least 25 percent larger than the other bedroom(s) would be mandated. Other changes would be putting a limit on bedroom-to-bathroom rations and limiting parking spaces to two per unit.

Planning Board Member Jeff Templeton asserted that the proposed amendments were “clearly designed to prevent the occupancy of ASU students in any future apartment developments in the Boone planning jurisdiction.”

“It was not the intent to prevent all student housing, but it was to encourage more diversity in housing,” said Lynnwood Brown, task force chairman.

Brown said he has heard repeated assertions of a lack of affordable, multi-family housing in the town, and that the task force’s goal is to provide a balance of the types of housing in town.

As ASU enrollment growth slows and new apartment complexes are being constructed in and around Boone, some rental agency owners have claimed that the market may be becoming saturated.

The Capstone Collegiate Communities development called The Cottages of Boone is currently being constructed on Poplar Grove Road off of N.C. 105. The development is planned to have 894 bedrooms, estimated to cost $500 to $600 per bedroom, and should open before the fall semester of 2013.  

Add that to other smaller units being built, such as the two separate additions off of U.S. 421, and Boone is planned to have more than 1,500 new apartment bedrooms by August 2014.

In the past decade, the topic of market saturation wasn’t an issue when ASU grew at nearly a 25 percent clip – from an enrollment of 12,856 in 2001-02 to 16,023 in 2011-12. But with enrollment growth now slowing by more than one-third to 70 to 90 students a year, according to one official at ASU, and more housing options on campus, this could lessen demand.

“We acknowledge that [the amendments] would have an impact on [future student housing-oriented] types of projects, but we don’t believe it would make them impossible,” Brown said. “It would seem [some developers] felt otherwise.”

“Who would this benefit if passed? The answer is no one,” Templeton said. “Obviously the students would lose out as the new regulations would put a halt to any new student apartments in Boone. … Those needing affordable housing would lose out. The teachers, firemen, and hospital workers seeking affordable housing would be no better off as the regulations do nothing to encourage the development of any new affordable housing or the renovation of existing properties for affordable housing. … The shortage of student housing would only increase the demand for single family homes in the neighborhoods in and around Boone.”

Templeton also noted that the regulations would not prevent student-oriented projects from being developed outside of the town limits, which could potentially lead to increased traffic and congestion.

The Affordable Housing Task Force is looking at “all possible scenarios to make it happen,” Brown said, and said that if these amendments don’t pass they will continue searching for a way to bring more affordable, workforce housing to the town. He said the task force is interested in working with members of the development community to figure out some type of balance.

The Boone Planning Commission will consider the UDO amendment at their Feb. 11 meeting. After which, they will submit recommendations to the Boone Town Council to help them decide whether or not to approve the amendment at their Feb. 19 or 21 meeting.

  • Jesse Wood contributed to this article.