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Study: Housing Too Expensive for Essential Workers

Posted July 25, 2007

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— Escalating housing prices are forcing teachers, law enforcement officers and other public employees in some communities to live far away from their jobs, according to a study released Wednesday.

The Center for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined trends in Brunswick County along North Carolina's southeast coast and found that the median housing cost for owner-occupied residences increased by 7.9 percent between 2000 and 2005. Meanwhile, the median household income in the county over the same period rose 0.6 percent, according to the study.

"The household income is going up at a very slow rate while the average price of homes is going up at a significantly higher rate," said William Rohe, director of the center.

The trend forces essential workers to live farther from their jobs, adding to traffic congestion and pollution and making it more difficult for some communities to retain workers, Rohe said.

Home prices in some parts of Wake County are similarly out of the reach of many public workers, said Susan Perry Cole, president and chief executive of the North Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations.

"The Brunswick (County) study tells us that we need a conversation in the Triangle," Cole said.

In Cary, for example, a quarter of 1,100 municipal employees live in the town, although officials said it's a matter of choice for some.

Cary Human Resources Director Vee Willis said the town offers an employee home-ownership program to help low-income public-sector workers to buy homes in Cary.

"It really provides assistance with the down payment to afford that home," Williams said.

26 Comments

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  • silver Jul 27, 2007

    There are a lots of affordable homes, but lots of the areas don't have quality neighbors. It's a shame that people have to over spend because people are having to run from people that live just any kind of way.

  • likemenow Jul 27, 2007

    Why is it necessary for "essential" people or anybody else for that matter to live where they want to? If you can't afford to live somewhere, you can't live there. Soon, people will be calling on the town councils to provide reasonably-priced housing. If the towns want to subsidize this sort of communist/socialist scenario, so be it. It doesn't make any kind of economic or common sense or it would already have been done by the developers. Next, people will want to have somebody else, ie:taxpayers, pay to keep them in the right clothing, cars, cell phones etc. If you want to be able to afford to live wherever you want, make the right choices and work hard like everybody else has. If the salary of an "essential" worked won't let you live next to a CEO, plan your life differently and figure it out.

  • cartman Jul 27, 2007

    I don't agree with this article. Yes, $600K homes are out of the reach of most people. There is a strategy to get a nicer house. Start with a less expensive condo, there are many in Cary under $100K. You can get by with putting 5% to 10% down. Build equity in the condo over some years, sell it, move to a small house...and so on. That's how most people afford the $600K houses, it's probably their 4th or 5th house, each one is a step up.

    Note, the street right next to Governor's Row in Cary has 2 and 3BR homes in the low to mid-$100Ks, so there are affordable houses.

  • applesmith Jul 27, 2007

    Its about time this came out. Its funny the workers who protect,service,clean and provide medical help can not even afford to live here in wake county. The great thing is that almost all of these workers take pride in what they do for the county and the cities they work for.I work for a county agency that at one time required you to live in this county. It took me over a year to find a house I could afford and then it was a fixer upper. It is my opion city and county officials such as DAVID THE CROOK COOK try to get out as cheap as they can when it comes to labor and benefits. Its all politics and money upper and lower class,rich and poor. It will never change as long as money drives the politics and goverment in this county. L.A. county in California is a prime example of this problem.With 90 percent of all goverment workers commuting from out of county to work there.

  • nowayebby Jul 26, 2007

    FHA has products which allow a no down payment purchase. You have to have relatively good credit and a debt ratio of 42% of your gross monthly income. No reason anybody can't buy a house. You do have to know how to budget your money and not live beyond your means.

  • houndsforme Jul 26, 2007

    We just visited our old neighborhood in New Hanover County this past weekend... These were starter homes. 3 bdrm, 2 bath, on slab. Nice homes to start out with for sure. In 1996 we bought the home for $86,900... Sold it in 2001 for $92,500. A house identical to ours in that neighborhood is on the market right now for $169,900.... I don't see how any person making $35,000 a year can afford that... My wife who is an x-teacher down there would just now be making around that. To avoid PMI, you would need almost $35,000 down or do some 80-15-5 loan with variable rates. Either way, it is ridicolous.

  • edith wharton Jul 26, 2007

    This is not news. Particularly in Cary, things have been trending this way since the early 90s. The explosion of growth in vacation homes along the coast accounts for the same phenom in Brunswick County.

    I think it's specious to relate a person's income to their moral character, btw. Home ownership is simply out of reach if a family has insufficient income to pay bills and save money for a down payment. Making more money is simply not an option for people who lack education, job skills or the inclination to work unappealing hours or tasks. Some people remain in public service rather than the corporate sector by choice. Others have few appealing choices.

    Those who relate high-income neighborhoods to safety or morality are delusional and wearing very expensive rose-colored glasses. Having those whose jobs we depend on to make our lives easier closer to those jobs makes things better for all of us.

  • LZ Jul 26, 2007

    Yeah, wilowdreams, it would be a shame if a bunch of teachers and cops moved in and ruined your neighborhood.

  • lolly Jul 26, 2007

    "I live in Cary, I have for 10 yrs almost. I love it here but I do hate that the population has exploded. It's going to be just like Raleigh is now in 7 yrs if they don't stop throwing up all these new homes and empty businesses waiting to be leased out. Low crime, high house prices keep the criminal element away from moving in next door to me VS having low income renters or buyers. Its just a fact"

    LOL

  • 68_polara Jul 26, 2007

    It stinks, most just can't afford to live were they work these days and it just keeps getting worse. I'd like to see the results of a study where pay increases are compared to inflation for the private and public sectors since the 90's. I would guess that inflation was been higher for sometime now.

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