Efforts to bring jobs to the Wilmington area depend on a lot of factors, including whether a community has housing for workers, Realtors and elected officials said at an event Thursday.
Jonathan Barfield, a Realtor and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners chairman, said the area has “a serious challenge when it comes to affordable housing, workforce housing. Typically when companies look to relocate to your community, they’re also looking for housing affordability for their employees.”
Even New Hanover County employees, whose minimum wage was increased by county officials to $15 an hour last year, struggle to be able to afford a home if they’re living off one salary, he said.
Barfield was speaking during the Broker Breakfast Roundtable on Thursday morning at The Terraces on Sir Tyler. The event was presented by the Cape Fear Sales & Marketing Council of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association.
Workforce housing as a concern came up throughout the discussion by the panel, which included Barfield; Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who is also a Realtor; Intracoastal Realty Realtor Bob Bates, the 2018 NC Realtors legislative chair; Jessica Edwards, Realtor with The Carolinas Finest team of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage; Michael Lopez, owner and president of Alpha Mortgage Corp.; and Jessica Lynch, vice president of housing finance for the National Association of Home Builders.
Barfield said companies considering the Wilmington area want to make sure that if their employees come here, they would be able to buy a home that is affordable to them. The generally accepted definition of affordable is housing that doesn't cost the occupant more than 30% of his or her income.
“If not, they’re going to look at other places as well,” Barfield said.
That's what potential Wilmington homebuyers are having to do, with little land left in the city for any kind of housing, and some more affordable prices in neighboring communities.
Affordable housing is "something that we in the city and the county are talking about," Saffo said. "I think we're limited in the amount of space that we have in the city; I think it's about 2,300 acres that is the left to build upon. So we're very limited in that. But I do think that the affordable housing market ... it's further and further out [Brunswick, Pender and other surrounding areas] because of land availability and land cost.
"And so that creates another problem for us with traffic that's coming into the community every single day."
Transportation initiatives continue to be one of the biggest concerns for Wilmington citizens and the community, Saffo said.
Meanwhile, the inventory of many of the types of homes people want to buy, especially in the city and closer to major employers, is still shrinking.
"From a Realtor's standpoint, we're looking at a market where we are battling over that under-$300,000 home, with multiple offers," Bates said.
He said the days on market, the total number of days a home is for sale before an offer is accepted, for a home priced under $200,000 is 16.