In Buncombe County’s continued commitment to making housing available, Commissioners approved additional funding for an initiative aimed at helping more people gain homeownership. During its meeting on Aug. 1, the Board approved providing nonprofit Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO) with $300,000 for downpayment assistance loans. This program is one of many resources the County helps provide in its effort to ensure comprehensive opportunities for access to housing.
The Downpayment Assistance Program helps qualified borrowers with additional funding through fully deferred, zero-percent interest loans. The loans are repaid when the property is sold or refinanced. The funding comes from $1,150,751 in downpayment assistance (DPA) loans (in the form of notes and deeds of trust). This move transfers $300,000 of County DPA loans to MHO.
In 2012, the County assigned $676,505 in DPA loans to MHO and established the Buncombe County Capital Fund (BCCF). The County assigned an additional $102,636 to MHO and its BCCF in 2017. A 2012 agreement by and between Buncombe County and MHO requires MHO hold these funds ($779,141) with a 10% loan loss reserve.
For more information on how the County helps fund this initiative, you can view the presentation here. You can learn more about Mountain Housing Opportunity’s Downpayment Assistance Program here. To learn more about the County’s affordable housing efforts, click here.
Equity program earns NACo award
Buncombe County has been recognized with a National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award for its Racial Equity Training Series. The award honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents. The Racial Equity Training Curriculum was created by our Equity & Inclusion Workgroup through its MEET (Meaningful Engagement, Equity Together) Team. This effort was initiated to help meet the goals outlined in the Racial Equity Action Plan. The MEET team spent more than 100 hours developing the racial equity trainings and has trained over 400 County staff. You can read more here.
Child Fatality Prevention Team annual report
By state law, Buncombe County has a joint Child Protection Team/Child Fatality Review Team that works to develop a communitywide approach to child abuse and neglect, better understand causes of childhood deaths, identify service delivery needs, and implement policies to help prevent future child abuse, neglect, and death. The group provided its annual report (with data from 2021, the latest figures available) to Commissioners based on its review of selected cases.
Key findings include:
- In 2021, Buncombe County had 20 child fatalities (ages 0-18)
- 11 of those 20 were infant fatalities (age 0-1)
- The causes of infant fatalities were:
- 5 from birth defects
- 1 from illness
- 3 from perinatal conditions
- 2 from sudden unexplained infant death (SUID)
Some of the key problems identified include caregivers placing infants in unsafe sleep environments, a lack of understanding of how to recognize and address suicidal thoughts in youth, and a lack of a universal nurse home visiting programs that would provide education and support. Based on those findings the group is recommending the following:
- A local Safe Sleep Workgroup should reconvene to work on identifying promising practices related to community messaging about safe sleep, updating prior safe sleep campaign materials, and push these materials and messages out to the community, including through trusted community messengers (community health workers, childcare facilities, churches, etc.) and agencies/programs that interact with caregivers.
- Local K-12 schools, Vaya Health, and HHS should collaborate on a public awareness campaign about youth suicide, sharing information with parents and caregivers on how to identify the risks of suicide and how to respond to youth who have suicidal thoughts.
- The Board of Commissioners should consider allocating future funding for the development and implementation of an evidence-based, voluntary nurse home visiting program (such as Families Connect) for all County families with newborns.
You can read the entire annual report here.
Property tax settlement
Every year, the Tax Collector presents Commissioners with information about the annual settlement of property tax collected during the previous fiscal year. Here are some highlights from fiscal year 2023 (FY23):
- As of June 30, 2023, Buncombe County’s regular property collection rate was 99.78%
- The regular property net levy for FY23 was $228,477,928
- The amount of uncollected regular property tax as of June 30, 2023, was $495,140 (down from $535,879 the previous fiscal year)
You can read more about the property tax settlement here.
Open Space Bond criteria
Commissioners are moving forward with criteria for the Open Space Bond that will help with conservation efforts while creating new greenways and other recreational opportunities. The Board approved the greenway evaluation criteria that will provide the framework for future projects. Projects will be evaluated using qualifying criteria (based on a yes-or-no question) and weighted criteria, which will be scored on a scale. The criteria is as follows:
Qualifying Criteria (answered by a yes-or-no question):
- Leveraging of bond funds
- Project scheduling/timeline
- Feasibility study
- Geographic location
Weighted criteria (scored on a scale):
- Connectivity (19%)
- Environmental impact (19%)
- Feasibility (18%)
- Accessibility (14%)
- Identified as countywide need/opportunity/priority (9%)
- Equity (9%)
- Leveraging of bond funds and project costs (8%)
- Safety (4%)
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will be the first stop for evaluating projects before heading to Commissioners for final approval. You can read more about the greenways criteria here.
Community Care Block Grant budget amendment
On June 20, 2023, Commissioners approved a Home and Community Care Block Grant funding plan administered by Land of Sky Regional Council. As stated in the agreement, the County’s Health and Human Services will receive $244,364 of the grant funding for the administration of an Adult In-Home Aide program. You can view the budget ordinance here.