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Real Estate - Residential

Opinion: Time For Elected Leaders To Boost Affordable Housing Funding

By Business Roundtable, posted Jan 20, 2022
The state of housing in New Hanover County has reached crisis levels, and as business leaders and major employers in this community we believe that immediate catalytic funding is a critical component to solving this crisis.

Almost half of all homes (53% of renters and 35% of homeowners) in the county suffer from high housing burden, and there has been no significant shift over the past decade.  In 2019, the Area Median Income Limit (AMI) set by HUD for New Hanover County was $40,800 for a single individual. Anyone earning less qualifies for housing assistance. Think about how many essential professionals you know who earn less.
 
Firefighters. Paramedics. Nursing assistants. Day care Teachers. Social workers.
 
Others making above AMI – police, electricians, teachers, plumbers and postal service clerks – are spending most of their salaries on housing. That means less money for other sectors of our economy.
 
A lack of housing also impacts recruiting and retaining talent. Take New Hanover Regional Medical Center. The hospital has more than 200 open nursing positions and nursing support roles. Where are these workers going to live?
 
In addition to the economic hardship for both workers and businesses, stable housing is part of a healthy life. Look at the numbers. The census tract with the highest life expectancy of 85.8 years, according to the CDC, is tract 120.09, which is directly east of the Pine Valley Country Club across South College Road. This area has a homeownership rate of 83.7%. The tract with the lowest life expectancy at 68.4 years is tract 111 located in downtown Wilmington directly north of Market Street encompassing the Brooklyn Arts District. The homeownership rate in this area is 54.4%.
 
A lack of housing is the biggest barrier to physical, financial and mental health in New Hanover County. Yet we’ve done nothing of substance to address this disparity. That is why we’re calling on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and the Wilmington City Council to budget a capital injection into the housing sector, either through existing municipal funds or a proposed $50 million housing bond, if voters pass it.
 
This funding will do the following:
  • Expand programs proposed by the Joint City County Workforce Housing Committee.
  • Create an administrative infrastructure between the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County that will generate thousands of attainable units and allow for banks and corporations to further lean in with investment and lending, amplifying impact and maximizing the dollar for dollar return on investment to the taxpayer.
  • The New Hanover County Endowment, a foundation designed to fund initiatives, not create or facilitate housing programs, will be able to make significant grants and investments far faster if a framework is already provided for effective capital injections with properly aligned planning and oversight by city and county staff.
The time to act is now.
 
Suggestions that more piloting is required will only exacerbate an already dire situation and every month that goes by without a coordinated, well-funded effort costs our community thousands of potential units to house teachers, nurses, police officers and senior citizens.
 
Years of meaningful conversation and diligent research have yielded a clear path forward.
 
Without a combined public-private partnership and vision, housing disparity will continue. We must create the opportunity, the time, and the space for our community to act on attainable housing and that starts with funding.
 
Signed:
John Monteith, Monteith Construction
Chip Mahan, Live Oak Bank
Huntley Garriott, Live Oak Bank
Dr. Philip Brown, Novant Health
Landon Zimmer, Zimmer Development Company 
Rusty Carter, Atlantic Packaging
George Taylor, TRU Colors
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