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Asheville's rising housing cost forces candidate out of City Council race weeks before primary

Taylon Breeden announced she would no longer run for City Council on February 20.
Photo courtesy of Breeden
Taylon Breeden announced she would no longer run for City Council on February 20.

Affordable housing was a centerpiece of Taylon Breeden’s 2024 campaign for Asheville City Council.

On Tuesday, the candidate and small business owner announced she will pull out of the race due to her “struggle to find long term affordable housing within the city.”

In a phone interview, Breeden, who runs The Pot Stirred cafe in the River Arts District, said that she has been in “survival mode” looking for a place to live. In the fall, the house she was renting was sold, forcing her to move out, she said. She found a temporary solution through a seasonal rental this winter, but Breeden said that house shifts into an Airbnb during spring, summer, and fall, which has forced her to continue her search.

“It's a very new feeling for me and I think I was embarrassed to let people know,” she said of her difficulty in finding housing. “But it's important that I tell the story because it is relatable and we're all facing it so harshly right now.”

According to North Carolina statute, a candidate must live in city limits to serve on Asheville City Council.

The Fair Market Rent – the estimated federal cost for rent and utility of 40% of rentals – for a one-bedroom apartment in the Asheville metro area has increased from $799 in 2019 to $1,496 in 2024, according to data from HUD. That’s a nearly 90% increase.

Access to affordable housing is even more difficult for households that make below 50% of the area median income, according to a 2023 report from Thrive Asheville. Depending on household size, that’s between $30,000 and $42,500 in Asheville.

The report found that three-quarters of new affordable housing built between 2018 and 2022 was for households that made above 60% of the Area Median Income. The disparity disproportionately impacts local Black, Hispanic, and Latino households who tend to make significantly less than $40,000 annually.

Breeden recalls when she first moved to Asheville in 2015, she rented a two-bedroom house for $800, a situation that’s near-impossible now.

“It just shows us how much that this [affordable housing crisis] has to be our priority,” she said. “I think we need to do a better job with regulating the Airbnbs.”

She continued, “We have to continue to build housing if we want to lower the cost, but for our locals to stay we have to implement some sort of higher percentage of affordable housing and it doesn't just need to be 80% of what others can afford, it has to be for lower incomes.”

This is Breeden’s fourth time running for office. In 2018, she ran for a Buncombe County Commission seat. In 2022, she ran for state senate in District 49 and lost to Julie Mayfield (D). The same year, she also ran and lost in a special election to replace N.C. Rep. Susan Fisher (D) in District 116, a seat won by Caleb Rudow (D).

Without Breeden, there are seven candidates vying for three open seats in this year’s City Council election. Incumbents Kim Roney and Sage Turner are running for re-election while current vice mayor and councilwoman Sandra Kilgore has opted not to run again.

CJ Domingo, Tod Leaven, Bo Hess, Kevan Frazier, and Iindia Pearson are all running in the primary. In-person early voting for the primary election kicked off on February 15 and election day is March 5. The top six candidates will move on to the general election.

Breeden said she will endorse and vote for incumbent Kim Roney in this year’s City Council race.

See Breeden’s full statement on her decision to exit the race: 

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce my withdrawal from the Asheville City Council race,” she wrote in a statement on Tuesday. The struggle to find long term affordable housing within the city, a challenge shared by countless artists and locals, has led me to this decision. I remain committed to advocating for a more accessible safe housing market for all. Thank you for your understanding and support. This has not been an easy decision.”

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Laura Hackett joined Blue Ridge Public Radio in June 2023. Originally from Florida, she moved to Asheville more than six years ago and in that time has worked as a writer, journalist, and content creator for organizations like AVLtoday, Mountain Xpress, and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has a degree in creative writing from Florida Southern College, and in 2023, she completed the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY's Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program. In her free time, she loves exploring the city by bike, testing out new restaurants, and hanging out with her dog Iroh at French Broad River Park.