Urban areas throughout North Carolina have taken the initiative to address and add affordable housing options to their housing stock. The various cities have approached projects differently and achieved measurable results. Each solution shared in public and private leadership, acknowledging the need and then championing specific projects that will create diversified options for their communities. Our local governments can learn and benefit from their progress.
Below are a few examples of initiatives to increase affordable housing; it is worth noting that the projects required public and private – both non-profit and for profit – partnerships and resources. Local governments, with the support of concerned citizens, have lead the way by increasing resources available for working families to purchase or rent safe, decent, housing in a neighborhood that provides access to jobs, schools and other opportunities. At the same time, they’ve come together to preserve existing affordable housing for residents by funding housing rehabilitation and repair programs.
Penny for Housing
Southside Revitalization Project
Durham’s City Council dedicated a penny of the city’s property tax for affordable housing. As a result, the city has been able to leverage other partners in a large-scale revitalization of the Southside neighborhood. Among the many partners are Duke University, Self Help Credit Union, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, and private equity investors. The Southside Revitalization Project encompasses 125 acres located between downtown Durham and North Carolina Central University. The site had the lowest homeownership rate and the highest concentration of vacant housing of any neighborhood in Durham. The objective of the revitalization strategy for Southside is to attract long-term private investment. The Southside revitalization strategy has four major components:
Housing Trust Fund
- The Lofts Phase I includes 132 mixed income rental housing units, with high quality amenities that include 52 market-rate apartments, 13 of which are live-work units for home-based businesses. The remaining 80 units are for households with incomes below 80 percent of Durham’s Area Median Income (AMI), with set-asides for below 40 percent and 60 percent of the AMI. Among the amenities at the Loft are a fitness room and swimming pool.
- Another area called The Bungalows is the homeownership component. It includes the construction of 48 architecturally designed, energy-efficient single-family houses, each situated on one-third acre lots.
- Piedmont Street Rentals will include nine permanently affordable rental units for households that are below 50 percent of the AMI. The Durham Community Land Trust with the support of the City of Durham is converting seven vacant houses.
- The Veranda at Whitted School will restore the historic and long-abandoned Whitted School in the Southside neighborhood. The restoration will be funded with a low-income housing tax credit in partnership with Durham County that will convert the upper floors of the school into 70 rental housing units for elderly residents. Plans call for classrooms on the first floor to be restored for early childhood education programs.
In 2001, Charlotte established a Housing Trust Fund (HTF) to provide capital financing for affordable housing. The fund provides “gap financing” on a competitive basis, to developers for construction of affordable housing serving households earning 50 percent of AMI or below. The availability of “gap financing” allows developers to secure other private and public funds necessary to develop projects that are affordable. Charlotte’s HTF financing can be used for new construction, rehabilitation and acquisitions. Charlotte funds the HTF with general obligation bonds, and has had six successful bond referendums with greater than 60 percent voter approval that have raised more than $104 million dollars. The HTF leverages $6 for every $1 invested in affordable housing, and has funded close to 5,500 units since 2002.
It’s true that the examples presented here are from larger cities, but there are lessons to be learned and applied in smaller cities like Wilmington. Asheville and Greensboro also have established Housing Trust Funds. Chapel Hill recently adopted the “penny for housing” to add a dedicated penny from property tax to support the development of affordable housing. And Raleigh benefits from bond funds to support affordable housing and is considering the “penny for housing.”
On November 10, 2015, the City of Wilmington in partnership with New Hanover County, the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors, the Cape Fear Homebuilders Association, and the Cape Fear Housing Coalition will host the Mayor’s Roundtable on Housing Affordability to examine local housing and economic trends and explore opportunities to ensure housing is affordable for working families in our region.
To learn more about the Mayor’s Roundtable on Housing Affordability and how to register, go to www.mayorsroundtable.com
Earl Sheridan, Ph.D., is a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, and a Councilman for the City of Wilmington. He is currently serving his third term in office. For more information about the city’s efforts for affordable housing, visit https://www.facebook.com/wilmingtonhousing or go to http://www.wilmingtonnc.gov/community_services/housing.