Urban land values have increased dramatically and Asheville is no exception. The assessed value on our home went up 75% resulting in a 56% increase in taxes in a single year. According to the Citizen Times article, average increases were about 40% in our neighborhood and slightly lower across the city. We are fortunate enough to be able to pay the increased taxes without much sacrifice, but what about those that can't? What about home owners that are paycheck to paycheck (as I was prior to marriage)? How will increased taxes impact them?
I created the GIF below to show why it is a critical time to donate to organizations that help such families. This GIF was presented to the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Board of Trustees and shows lands values expressed in price per acre. The national average value of urban land is around $500,000 per acre and Asheville land values exceed this in some neighborhoods. The lot next to us sold for $116,000, but is only 0.14 acres making its value around $828,000 per acre. With the city reducing the minimum developable lot size, this is becoming more common.
Habitat for Humanity buys land and builds new housing stock and relies on a supply of available land. Available inexpensive urban land is not a problem in many large cities like Charlotte, Houston, or Detroit, but is a considerable obstacle in the mountains. Prior to this increase in value, Habitat would buy land in the neighborhood of $40,000 per 1/8th acre building lot. In the color ramp used in the maps below, think of the red areas as places Habitat for Humanity can no longer afford to build homes. Watch the loop several times and note the assessment years of 2006, 2013, and 2017 with the dramatic change often coming the year after the assessment. The map shows the county first and then West Asheville before looping back to the county. West Asheville is bounded by the French Broad River to the south and west and Patton Avenue to the north. The largest parcel of "blank" land is the Biltmore, but they pay taxes. Blank parcels happen when the value is being adjusted in the database. Below the GIF, I explain my methods.
Methods: I obtained the parcel database from Buncombe County GIS department for each year from 2006 - 2018. These data are comparable because each year was archived in early January. In ArcGIS 10.3, I calculated a new field in each database representing the value of land per acre as follows: NEW_FIELD = LANDVAL/ACREAGE where LANDVAL is the assessed value of the parcel and ACREAGE is the parcel size in acres. I applied the same color ramp to each year based on the minimum and maximum value for the entire data set. (If I had used the min and max for each year, the maps would not be comparable.) I applied a dynamic legend in ArcGIS and exported each map using some Python code. I assembled the GIF in Photoshop 5 frame by frame. I am sure there is an easier way to assemble a GIF from frames, so please let me know if you know of one! I also wanted to host on YouTube, but have not found a way to upload my large GIF. The full file size is 37 MB, but GIPHY compresses it much more.