Residents started moving into Cypress Cove, an apartment complex off Princess Place Drive near Creekwood North in Wilmington, nearly a year ago, and the workforce housing development is now completely full with a waiting list.
The community holds 200 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.
"The person who's next on the list for the two bedrooms put their application in in August and for three bedrooms it was May," said Eileen Lewandowski, COO of Parachute Management Co., which is part of Cypress Cove developer Eastern Carolina Community Development Inc.
"This area is screaming for more affordable units," said Keith Walker, president and CEO of Beaufort-based ECCDI.
ECCDI is a private nonprofit 501(c)3 agency that worked with federal tax credits and bonds, along with the Wilmington Housing Authority and the city of Wilmington, to get the more than $30 million Cypress Cove project funded. Rents at Cypress Cove range from $635 to $899 while the average rent in Wilmington is more than $1,100.
Last month, the Wilmington Police Department used its service call statistics (350 from January to Nov. 4 this year) to Cypress Cove in explaining its concerns about a separate developer's plan to build apartments in the area.
City documents state, "WPD would withdraw its opposition if the project were conditioned to senior citizen housing ONLY and equipped accordingly with elevators. WPD experience indicates that housing limited to senior citizens only is associated with much lower incidences of crime than non-age-restricted housing."
But Walker doesn't believe the service calls tell the real story of Cypress Cove, where residents are screened for minimum income, criminal records and whether they are delinquent on any housing-related debts.
When it comes to problems with residents not following the rules, PMC and ECCDI work to find solutions, Walker said.
"What we do is we identify it. We actually go talk to the people, take action on it. We give people chances," Walker said. "We want them to live here. Not everyone has a perfect lifestyle so we want to be able to accommodate, but if they're breaking the law or causing havoc on our site or destroying our units, we can't."
Those residents are evicted, Walker and Lewandowski said. And it's mainly people coming from outside the area that result in issues with crime, they said.
Meanwhile, the demand continues to mount for workforce and affordable housing in the Wilmington area, as rents and home prices continue to increase.
"I think our county, our city gives a lot of lip service to affordable housing, but they've got to lean forward," said Robert Campbell, chairman of ECCDI's Board of Directors and senior pastor at New Beginning Christian Church in Castle Hayne. "Their need is so great, but nobody wants it in their backyard. People want to move into a community where they buy a house and, and they say, 'We don't want anything here but what we bought here,' and if that was the case . . . we would never be able to develop.
"And now that 95, 96% of the developable land in Wilmington is taken, you now have to start making some real hard choices about if you're going to make room for workforce housing . . . "
Because the need is so great, Walker said ECCDI is working on a 68-unit senior housing project in Castle Hayne with New Beginning. The organization is also looking at developing another 200-unit project in Wilmington and setting up an office here within about the next six months, Walker said.
"Our goal would be to set up a fully-fledged not housing development organization but community development organization," Walker said.