affordable housing hard to find in cashiers nc.

Real Estate Agent with wnc brokers
Affordable housing hard to find in Cashiers
By Amy Williams, Chronicle Intern
Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - 09:21:53 am EDT

Elaine Grice is a local who had to move to South Carolina because she could no longer afford to live in the Cashiers area. Grice says housing in Cashiers is too expensive for her and other locals.

History teacher and soccer coach Todd Drum hits the snooze button at 5 a.m. He drives 45 minutes to Blue Ridge School every weekday from Dillsboro. Drum has considered moving to the Cashiers area to shorten that commute but says it would be impossible for him to buy or rent in Cashiers.

Drum spends around 10 hours in the car driving back and forth from Cashiers every week, and approximately 60 hours split between two jobs.

There is no financial advantage for working in Cashiers, says Drum. He used to teach at Smoky Mountain High School but transferred to Blue Ridge two years ago for opportunity to work with the staff and students at Blue Ridge.

Drum says it can be difficult for Blue Ridge to find teachers willing to make that commute. 50 percent of the teachers at Blue Ridge and 40 percent of the teachers at Summit Charter School live off the mountain, according to their respective principles. Most teachers who live in Cashiers have inherited land or they live with someone who can afford the house, says Drum.

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"I realize this is a resort [and] tourist area, but the wealth distribution really makes me sick," Drum says.

He references the stark difference between those who can afford to live in the community for two months in multi-million dollar homes and the Hispanic laborers at commonly seen at Exxon who are just trying to make a living.

"The business owners, they have a monopoly," he says. "I hope they [local businesses] make it because sooner or later they're going to be the only natives that live here. Make that money because everybody else is not."

Saving For Later

Susannah Patty, a recent graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, also works here in Cashiers but is not a homeowner. She is living with her mom for economic reasons. Patty is opening her first business, an organic grocery store here in Cashiers.

"It doesn't make sense for me to be renting when I'm not making any investments. This is my investment," she says of the store.

Although she is opening The Root Cellar here in Cashiers, Patty doesn't see the point in buying or renting a home here. Most housing in Cashiers is through the roof, she says.

"Young people can't afford to live here and the population is aging quickly," says Patty.

Patty one day hopes to buy land for farming but not in Cashiers. Patty says she isn't comfortable enough with the market to invest in a place like Cashiers.

"Honestly, were I to buy or rent, I would go to Sylva," she says.

Patty loves Cashiers and values that there are few food chains in the area. She believes local business is very important but points out that, though there are few chain restaurants, there are also few affordable restaurants.

"Commuting has become a necessity for those who want to work in Cashiers," she says.

Patty also expressed concern with what that long commute for so many workers is doing to the environment.

Not Her Mountains Anymore

Elaine Grice calls them her mountains, even though they are no longer her home. Born and raised in Glenville, Grice had to move to Salem S.C. because social services required common utilities that Grice didn't have in the school bus where she was living for two and a half years. Her 17 year old daughter was taken away and Grice knew that if she didn't find a new place, her boys would be next to leave.

Obviously, she left her mountains.

Grice could not afford to buy a house in Cashiers or the surrounding area, so she moved to South Carolina. Grice is still upset over losing her mountain lifestyle that she loved so much.

"It ain't worth two cents if you ain't happy," sh e says.

She remembers playing with her kids, swinging on vines, going fishing, walking with her kids to the bus stop and having picnics.

"If I can find another place like that, I'm having it," she says.

She thinks the price of housing is running the local people out of the old homes because they can no longer afford to live in Cashiers.

"They can't afford a brand new home. That's impossible," she says. "Poor people can't afford the rich man's house."

Grice is also upset about the development in Cashiers, which she says is running the wildlife out of our area.

"They're taking out too much of the wildlife for the animals. They keep going with all the houses, developments, and stuff like that, there ain't gonna be no woods, no animals," she says. Grice says there are plenty of empty houses, but developers keep building more and running more wildlife out of the area.

Grice loves animals and has never been afraid of any mountain creatures. She remembers walking home from work in the night and having to hike through woods without a light or gun. But it didn't bother her.

"Ain't nothing out there gonna bother you," she laughs. "It'll turn you loose when it comes daylight."

Not everyone wants to grow up to be rich, she says. Some people are happy to live in the woods without big houses and things they don't need. Grice believes poor locals are being run out by high prices and standards they can't afford.

"It'd take them the rest of their life, and the rest of their kid's life to even pay for them," she says. "Why try to buy [a home in Cashiers]?"

Look for the second installment in Amy Williams' series next week. It will focus on what business owners think about the housing problem.