When you hear the term “housing affordability” – what comes to your mind? Some equate it to lower income or subsidized housing, others see it as housing with rent or mortgage payments that don’t exceed 30 percent of a household’s gross income. There are many perceptions out there, but one thing is for certain – housing affordability is important for the people who live and work in our county.
That’s why the county and city developed a joint committee – the Workforce Housing Committee – to study affordable and workforce housing, the public’s perception of it, and the gaps that currently exist; and then to develop tangible recommendations for addressing this issue.
Just this month, the committee launched a workforce housing survey to obtain a baseline of our community’s opinion on the degree of the problem and the extent of government or other interventions they believe are necessary to address this issue. Any resident in New Hanover County can and should complete the survey here.
Please ask your employees, colleagues, neighbors and friends to take the survey. It’s going to be an important guide and insight for the committee to be able to understand the perceptions and needs of the community, coupled with data from their housing study that is currently underway, in order to recommend short and long-term strategies to the Board of Commissioners and City Council.
Housing affordability is important for our quality of life and it’s important for our economy – so that all the people who work here can live here, support local businesses, and send their children to school in our county. So that businesses can grow and plant roots here, knowing that their employees can find quality, affordable housing close to work.
This community continues to grow, which is a great thing. But it also brings challenges as we work to ensure the infrastructure, services, available housing, and so much more are in place and fit the needs of our growing population.
The Board of Commissioners understands the importance of residents – of all ages and all incomes – having safe and affordable housing. It has been a topic of conversation for many years, and two years ago the board implemented a property conveyance policy, to allow for the conveyance of county-owned, buildable land to qualified non-profits, with a core mission to provide owner-occupied workforce housing.
So far, seven county-owned pieces of land have been conveyed to Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity under this policy, and five affordable homes have been constructed on them and are now owned by residents in our community. We’re anticipating around five more homes to be built on the remaining land that has been conveyed thus far.
In March of this year, the Board of Commissioners also authorized the conveyance of 14.36 acres of county-owned property in Castle Hayne to Cape Fear Habitat for a workforce housing development. And Commissioners have supported Habitat by funding the extension of water and sewer service to their new housing development off Gordon Road, Blendin Meadows, which will have 27 affordable homes when it is complete. So far, three homes are complete in the development and four more are underway – with homeowners closing on the first two properties in the next few weeks.
All of these steps have aided in Habitat’s mission, created workforce housing opportunities to benefit our community, and helped to further the county’s strategic priority of creating complete communities that provide a range of housing opportunities for all citizens.
The county also has a dedicated workforce housing planner focused on this important topic in our community, and who helps coordinate the work of the Joint Workforce Housing Committee.
I share these actions the county has taken, and our collaboration with Habitat – an organization doing great work in our region, because it’s important for residents to know that steps are already underway to improve access to affordable workforce housing. But we still have much more to do.
So I look forward to hearing the committee’s recommendations that come from their housing study and this public survey, so that we can better understand our housing needs and work toward solutions and services that help our community now and for the future.
I hope you will join me in taking the survey, sharing your input, and helping to inform recommendations on how to make safe, quality, affordable housing a reality for all.
The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and is anonymous: NHC Housing Survey.
New Hanover County is committed to progressive public policy, superior service, courteous contact, judicious exercise of authority, and sound fiscal management to meet the needs and concerns of our citizens today and tomorrow. See more at http://www.nhcgov.com.
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