Private and public partnerships to address affordable housing
There’s no getting around it: with 56,000 working families in Wake County that can’t currently afford a place to live, Wake and Raleigh are experiencing a full-blown affordable housing crisis.
But, though the current landscape is bleak, last month offered some glimmers of hope that the region could be finding its footing on a path to ensuring that number doesn’t balloon to 150,000 families in the next two decades; creative, collaborative initiatives from the public, private and nonprofit sectors are and will continue to be key.
“We are well beyond the point where one organization or developer can solve this problem, hence the critical need for partnerships between Wake County government, our municipalities and not-for-profit developers such as Habitat for Humanity, DHIC and CASA,” said Jessica Holmes, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, in an email to Raleigh Magazine.
Some of those partnerships are already in the works. The City of Raleigh made a commitment in 2016 to add 5,700 units to its affordable housing stock. This spring, the city council approved millions in funding for affordable housing at Hampton Springs, Walnut Trace, Oak Forest Pointe and Sumner Pointe, as well as $4.6 million to build 120 units at Beacon Ridge in southeast Raleigh and $3 million for 158 new units for elderly residents at downtown’s Sir Walter. Collectively, these projects will add more than 1,000 units to the city’s existing stock.
Some of the partnerships Holmes mentions, on the other hand, are in the early planning stages. Also last month, Wake County manager David Ellis unveiled a budget proposal that, via a nearly 1 cent increase in the property tax rate, will raise $15 million in five years to build 2,500 affordable homes and apartments, and meet a goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2021. Commissioners are expected to vote to adopt the budget early this month.
While Holmes described the affordable housing budget proposal as “epic,” she says there’s even more that can be done to ensure enough affordable units are built. “Additionally, we must strategically engage for-profit developers, landlords, the business community and community leaders,” Holmes said.
To this point, two local private sector initiatives—one from Capital Bank and the other from Cary-based building products manufacturer PlyGem—are aimed at helping local residents maintain the homes they already live in, meet their current rents, or save for future homeownership.
Last month, Ply Gem donated building materials and partnered with Habitat for Humanity to provide new exteriors and energy efficient windows to five local homeowners. The project, part of Ply Gem’s national Home for Good program, was aimed at raising awareness of the need for affordable housing in the area. Linda Williams, a southeast Raleigh resident and one of the recipients of the remodel, said she had worried about losing her home of 20 years as it was becoming too much for her to maintain on a fixed income.
“This is where I raised my kids, where my grandson opens his Christmas gifts, where my mother had her 75th birthday party,” Williams said. “This is the place we all call home and a place I want to continue to call home for 20 more years.”
On the other side of town, Capital Bank (which recently merged with First Tennessee Bank) launched Hope Inside, a financial counseling service at its North Ridge location on Falls of Neuse, aimed at helping anyone who dreams of being a homeowner some day.
“The Capital Bank Hope Inside center provides free financial information to anyone in the community, whether they’re a customer or not,” says Laura Bunn, Capital Bank’s Triangle Market President. “We know educating people about budgeting, paying off debts and credit rating awareness helps individuals and families become more financially competent and meet their rent or be able to buy homes or start their own businesses.”
Bunn says the center, the first to open in the North Carolina market, will work in the coming months to generate awareness of the program and refer participants.
“These are excellent examples of corporations stepping up to address the need [for work around affordable housing],” says Holmes of the Ply Gem and Capital Bank Hope Inside initiatives. “Everyone should be concerned about affordable housing as supply and demand has resulted in ‘less’ house for more money at all levels across the country. From church leaders to business leaders, we all have a role to play.”