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Study: Housing Too Expensive for Essential Workers

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

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CARY, N.C. — 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.

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Dan Bowens, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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