Almost all of those who responded to a local affordable housing survey said they think affordable housing is an issue in New Hanover County, with most saying they would support initiatives that would provide more, according to survey results
The Cape Fear Housing Coalition, in conjunction with the University of North Carolina Wilmington, offered the survey online and on paper copies throughout the community.
The final sample size was 659 respondents after some were removed for various reasons, including 74 from respondents who were not New Hanover County residents.
"I think this survey is a great start and hopefully will lead to a more comprehensive study of some kind here in the Cape Fear region on housing," said Paul D'Angelo, chairman of the Cape Fear Housing Coalition and a member of a newly formed city-county affordable housing committee, in an email. "I think it’s very interesting that a large percentage of respondents would support various affordable housing initiatives like building incentives, cost-effective construction techniques, even governmental subsidies, AND that there was a focus on deconcentrating poverty, which we at the coalition think is key. I think the survey shows people recognize that there is an affordable housing issue in our region and that there is interest in solutions … action and implementation."
Other findings, according to the survey results, included:
- There were mixed opinions regarding the impact of affordable housing in the community, such as property values, attractiveness of community, crime, and community character.
- A large percentage of respondents asserted that affordable housing would have a positive impact on the economy, but come with a price of increased traffic.
- Respondents generally endorsed the idea that finding quality affordable housing was challenging for several different groups (those with incomes less than $24,000, young adults, families with children and renters).
- More than three-quarters of respondents (80 percent) asserted that an affordable monthly housing payment would be less than $1,000.
- With regard to concentrated poverty, the overwhelming majority of respondents said this was a problem in both the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County, and they would support efforts to deconcentrate poverty in the area.
The survey and results report were authored by Kristen DeVall and Christina Lanier of UNCW’s Department of Sociology and Criminology, who in the report recommend that the findings and conclusions be interpreted with caution.
They pointed out the survey's limits, saying, "First, this study’s findings are not necessarily representative of the opinions of New Hanover County residents and thus cannot be generalized to the larger population. Our study sample was limited to those who had access the survey during the study time period.
"Second, the demographic composition of the study sample reveals that we did not obtain information from a wide cross-section of New Hanover County residents. Given that almost half of respondents own their own home, over 20% reported a gross income of $70,000 or more and almost 25% pay more than $1,000 for rent/mortgage each month, the study results may better reflect residents in the upper social classes."
In a third point, the authors noted that the number of respondents answering each question varied, a fact that contributed to an inability to generalize.
"We worked very hard to get press on this survey across the board and point residents to the survey link online," D'Angelo said. "…we wanted everyone’s opinion on housing affordability whether they thought there was a problem or not. All the voices matter because it will help us see where the support is and what solutions could rise to the top."
Recommendations from the survey included that the results should be used "as a stepping stone to completing a comprehensive study of housing affordability in the county.
"Such an endeavor would involve systematically collecting data from a wide cross section of community residents and would allow generalizations to be made," the authors wrote.
They also suggested hosting regular community conversations, similar to the November 2015 Mayor's Roundtable
event. At that roundtable, local officials and business leaders agreed that some kind of public-private partnership and incentives would need to be offered for builders to be able to construct new, affordable housing in a county where lot prices are increasing as available land dwindles.
After the roundtable, city and county officials formed a new panel, the Ad Hoc Committee on Improving Workforce/Affordable Housing, which will hold its first meeting at 11 a.m. Aug. 30 in the Azalea Room at New Hanover County’s Executive Development Center, 1241 Military Cutoff Road, according to a New Hanover County news release.
"The 14-member [committee] was established by county and city officials to conduct a comprehensive examination of workforce/affordable housing efforts, along with the demand for and supply of such housing, and recommended 'best practices' that would be most appropriate to improve and increase the stock of available workforce housing in this region. The committee is expected to recommend specific short and long-term strategies, and identify key stakeholders whose involvement will be critical to achieving success," the release said.