ASHEVILLE – Four homes framed in four days. That was the promise of BeLoved Asheville’s Labor Day weekend building blitz, the final push toward framing the tiny homes that will house people at deep affordability: those who earn 30-40% of the area median income. That’s a single-person household earning $23,800 or below.
From Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, BeLoved co-director Amy Cantrell said they met their goal, and then some, hurdling toward an early 2024 move in, hoping to wrap construction by the end of the year. On Sept. 1, volunteer crews from across Western North Carolina were busy constructing the wood-frame structures on the four newest tiny homes, each 440-649 square feet.
Navigating the steep bank of the East Asheville site, a crew carried a 400-pound ridge beam, one of three that would support the home’s rafters, heaving it to the roof where other workers balanced on scaffolding.
“I’m just in awe,” Cantrell said, watching them work, standing alongside co-director Ponkho Bermejo. Each day of the build brought 75-100 volunteers, among them members from eight local teams from the Builders Association of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The weekend blitz ended with 11 of the 12 planned homes framed and in various stages of construction.
“When someone is very committed, this is what happens,” Bermejo said. “We are showing what is possible.”
In the midst of a “crushing” housing crisis, Cantrell said, bold moves like this are necessary. In Asheville, rents are the highest in the state, and have jumped 36% in less than two years.
“This really meets the goal of bringing our neighbors home,” she said. She imagines unhoused people, older individuals on a fixed income, young people struggling in the workforce, or those facing gentrification will be among the village’s future residents.
BeLoved gets calls nearly every day from people losing housing, she said: “We want to be the difference.”
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‘Real, sustainable solutions’
The effort “underscores our unwavering commitment to addressing the housing crisis in our area,” said Megan Carroll, executive director of the Builders Association, in an August news release. “Through hands-on involvement and collaboration, we’re demonstrating our dedication to creating real, sustainable solutions for individuals and families in need of affordable housing.”
Carroll was on site Sept. 1, and said despite what may appear to be a relatively simple design — two-story tiny homes, some with a loft, some without — the build is “nuanced and different,” with each team discovering their own way to “solve the puzzle.”
Dubbed BeLoved Village, the project has been in the works since 2017 and broke ground in early July 2022. The 1.22-acre parcel was donated by Land of the Sky United Church of Christ, which sits on an adjoining property.
A $1.2-million project, the units will come fully furnished and equipped with full kitchens, bathrooms and a washer and dryer. All of the builds are two-bedroom, with the exception of the one-bedroom model home, built in 2020.
In previous Citizen Times coverage, Cantrell anticipated the building cost of each unit to be $94,700, but with so much volunteer labor, supplies and pro bono work, the true cost will be much less, she said.
A public application for the units will open in the coming months. A community committee will be behind the selection process. To qualify, someone must meet the AMI range (around 30% AMI), among other criteria.
Because of zoning limitations and “site practicalities” the houses in the village could not be subdivided, according to BeLoved’s website, so residents will not own their home. However, they will accrue equity on a schedule similar to a traditional mortgage.
Upon moving away, residents will be able to take their equity with them.
The 12th and final house will be a donated 24-by-24 Deltec Home, or prefabricated kit. After concrete footers are poured, the walls will be craned in later in August.
A community build
While volunteers grabbed food from BeLoved Asheville’s food truck parked onsite — pupusas and slices of watermelon on the menu for a scorching Friday afternoon — the mood was boisterous. From the ground under a work bench, amid sawdust, red clay and scraps of wood, a DeWalt speaker blared “Drown” by the Smashing Pumpkins.
Despite “friendly competition” among the build teams, Carroll could point to two different builders comparing notes over a blueprint, and when it was time for the heaviest walls to be lifted into place, everyone was willing to lend a hand.
“For us, there is no better celebration of Labor Day than what we’re seeing right here,” Bermejo said. It’s a model BeLoved hopes to continue replicating, “to do it over and over and over … all we need to do is find the land.”
BeLoved and its partners will celebrate the blitz from 5:30-8 p.m. Sept. 6, at The Outpost, 521 Amboy Road, Asheville.
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Sarah Honosky is the city government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. News Tips? Email email@example.com or message on Twitter at @slhonosky. Please support local, daily journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times