Local News

Wake officials seek coordinated response to affordable housing crisis

Posted July 19, 2017 6:35 p.m. EDT

— To address a shortage of affordable housing that some local officials are calling a crisis, Wake County officials are taking a harder look at the issue.

Commissioner Jessica Holmes said the county's population growth has led to a more competitive housing market, and as rents go up, more people are finding that they can no longer afford to live where they have been.

"Individuals who may have not needed affordable housing previously are now in a situation where they need affordable housing because the rents are ever increasing in Wake County," Holmes said.

The county is working to provide as much affordable housing as possible, but it can't keep up with the demand.

"The problem is, in terms of preservation, we're losing between 800 and 1,300 units per year, and so we are not producing fast enough for the loss we are experiencing," Holmes said.

Also, some groups are buying out communities that have accepted subsidized tenants in the past and redeveloping them to market-rate complexes, pricing out the poorer residents.

That has happened in recent months at the Wintershaven and Sir Walter Apartments in Raleigh and the Forest Hills complex in Garner.

"There's now this sort of domino effect of individuals who are now in affordable housing being displaced," Holmes said.

County officials said they need more money for affordable housing, but they also can tap into existing resources.

"The county has surplus property that we could contribute, for example, to a Habitat for Humanity project," Holmes said.

Representatives of every municipality in Wake County have been invited to join a steering committee to coordinate the local response.

Raleigh officials said the city is doing better than comparable cities in terms of affordable housing, but Holmes said that's not enough.

"Go tell that to the individuals at Sir Walter that are being displaced. Tell that to the individuals at Wintershaven that are being displaced," she said. "The fact that other similarly situated cities are doing worse than Wake County, that's not a statement that we are proud of."