I’ve been getting questions about affordable housing lately and I’d like to tackle this in two blog posts. The first will be focused on subsidized Affordable Housing (capitalization is intentional), the second on housing affordability.
First, let’s define what we mean when we’re talking about Affordable Housing, which is government-subsidized housing for qualifying individuals and families. The City of Raleigh defines affordable as individuals or families spending 30% or less of their total income on all housing costs, including rent or mortgage and utilities.
To qualify for Affordable Housing tax credits, applicants must prove their income falls below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Raleigh’s AMI for a family of four is $67,450. In 2015 to address the overwhelming need for subsidized Affordable Housing rental units the Raleigh City Council set a goal of building 5,700 units over the next 10 years. To help pay for this, Council increased property taxes by a penny. We are now seeing the results of this work.
Using these (and a variety of other) funds, in 2018 we approved spending $22 million to build more than 1,000 units throughout the city.
So, is Raleigh doing anything to tackle Affordable Housing? YES, and…we’ve got to do more. Over the past year, it’s been an honor to work alongside our great partners in this work, including:
1) Other governmental agencies, such as Wake County, which just approved spending $15 million on Affordable Housing initiatives.
2) Nonprofit partners, such as:
CASA, which is focused on building Affordable Housing for our most vulnerable populations including veterans and people living with disabilities, who are often living at 30% AMI or below.
Triangle Family Services, which offers emergency housing assistance, eviction prevention, foreclosure assistance, and more.
DHIC, a nonprofit Affordable Housing developer which builds rental housing projects such as the Prairie Building and Carlton Place in downtown Raleigh and Avonlea and Wakefield Hills in north Raleigh.
Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit Affordable Housing developer that builds homes for ownership.
3) Leaders in the development and building community who are researching ways the City of Raleigh can incentivize them to build Affordable Housing mixed into market-rate projects.
Our community is doing a lot to tackle this challenge from many angles. And, it’s still not enough. At this point, it’s worth noting that our shortage of Affordable Housing units isn’t the problem; it’s a consequence. Part of the problem is that wages have not kept up with our cost of living, leaving many to struggle to pay for housing, healthcare, and other basic necessities.
We will never be able to spend our way out of our Affordable Housing crisis. And, yet there is more we can do. For solutions, we can look to Wake County and their Affordable Housing Plan. In it they recommend land use and zoning changes to help tackle housing affordability. The INDY Week had a good article about this challenge, “Wake County Will Add Hundreds of Affordable Housing Units a Year. It Won’t Be Enough.” In the second post we’ll explore how we can create an abundance of diverse housing options.