Documentaries

Focal Point: Home Economics

Posted March 3, 2005
Updated August 5, 2012

Original Air Date: March 3, 2005

Like food and water, shelter is a basic human need. But for many working families in North Carolina, finding an affordable place to live can be difficult, if not impossible. Experts say people shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing.

Nicky and Jeff Brown of Salisbury are using a program that helped them get a new house they otherwise could not afford.

Based on the 30 percent standard, a person making minimum wage, which is $5.15 an hour in North Carolina, can afford monthly rent of no more than $268. One-bedroom apartments in North Carolina typically rent for more than $500, and two-bedrooms for more than $600. The median monthly mortgage payment in our state is $1,088.

The gap between wages and housing costs means many people in our communities, from cooks and janitors to teachers and firefighters, can’t afford to live in the communities where they work. Housing advocates say about 2 million North Carolinians have a housing problem. The problem has been compounded in recent years by job losses. People who can’t find affordable housing have few good choices. They can pay more rent than they can afford, which can lead to increased debt and ultimately financial crisis. They can live in sub-standard housing that may be unhealthy or unsafe. They can look for scarce housing opportunities in more rural areas but face the additional time and expense of a long commute. Or, they can become homeless.

Capital Park in Raleigh is affordable housing that replaced Halifax Court, a rundown area near downtown Raleigh.

In order to build affordable housing, a developer must find a way to make up the difference between what a tenant can pay and what the development costs to operate. North Carolina’s Housing Trust Fund helps fill that gap. North Carolina’s appropriation to the fund is $3 million a year. Advocates say that needs to be boosted to $50 million to meet North Carolina’s immediate need for affordable housing. Their effort is called tjhe Campaign for Housing Carolina.

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