3 min readMay 24, 2023

My statement at the Buncombe County Tourism Development Board on why they need to fund affordable housing for service workers

This is action I am taking next week to get involved with the story I wrote last week Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the Tourism Development Authority. My name is Kevin Jones and I live in Swannanoa on a farm by the river with the my wife and children and grandchildren. We have a couple of Air bnb’s on the farm,and two glamping sites across from Owen Park, and my wife and I eat out at a Buncombe County restaurant or in a hotel a couple of times a week We are acquainted daily with the tourism industry.

I’d like to start my remarks from my perspective as a businessman. I’m a serial successful entrepreneur. From a business standpoint, looking at the long term health of the tourism industry, using the Lift Fund for affordable housing for service workers makes sense. Staffing shortages post pandemic means its a good idea to call our favorite restaurants each night to see if they are going to be open, that they have enough people to staff the kitchen and wait tables. I’ve talked to numerous waiters and waitresses who have to suffer 90 minute commutes to work because they can’t afford to live in Asheville.

Affordable housing should help restaurants and hotels reduce turnover and training costs, increase retention with staff who can engender customer loyalty and relationships over time, decreasing costs and increasing margins. If a janitor or cook can walk to work, they will stay with your business for a long time, increasing the quality of the customer experience at the restaurant or hotel. Affordable housing is a good long term business decision for the tourism industry.

Affordable housing is also the right thing to do. The occupancy tax has doubled in four years to nearly 40 million dollars a year and the people who are doing the work to make the profits for your businesses deserve to be able to live near their jobs, rather than commuting an hour or more.

Thirdly, the people most directly affected by the tourism industry; the employees who are providing the labor to your businesses need to have a voice in how the 16.5% of the occupancy tax. allocated to the Legacy Investment in Tourism Fund, set aside for community benefit, is allocated. A single service industry representative on the Lift Committee where nine out of the 11 members represent tourism businesses who directly benefit from the annual $40 million is only fair and should have been done long ago. I am here to support the efforts of Buncombe Decides and its leader, Ben Williamson.

Buncombe Decides stands up for democracy. Ben’s family works in tourism. The hours he and the Asheville Food and Beverage Workers group Asheville Food and Beverage Workers United your attention.

Let Buncombe be the leader in this critical national tourism issue. We live in these mountains where people have come since the early 1900s-for clean mountain air, for the kindness of our citizens. Let’s be kind to the people who make that happen.

Here is a companion story on why I show up at these meetings.