Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro visited Raleigh last week to discuss the city's challenges providing affordable housing and sustainable development.
Castro was hosted by David Price, the Democratic Representative for North Carolina's 4th district, and the two conducted a round table discussion with local housing leaders focusing on the rising demand for affordable housing in the Raleigh area.
Price said in a statement he was proud of the work local organizations have accomplished in neighborhoods like Capitol Park, although he said more must be done.
“We must redouble efforts to provide all North Carolinians with safe, affordable housing, especially in communities like Raleigh where housing and rental prices are increasing so dramatically,” he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an estimated 12 million households currently pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes on housing, causing some people to be unable to pay for necessities like food, clothing, transportation and medical care.
Danita Morgan, spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, said Raleigh still has a shortage of affordable housing.
"There are more than 28,000 families in Wake County who need an affordable place to live –– that means that they’re paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing,” she said.
This lack of affordable housing has also affected Wake County students, Wake County District Three Commissioner Jessica Holmes said in an email.
“There has been a 23 percent increase in the number of homeless students in Wake County schools since 2009,” she said. “Lack of affordable housing has been cited as a primary issue.”
Holmes said the problem stems from an issue of supply and demand.
"Wake County is the ninth fastest growing county in the United State with about 63 people moving to the county each day although it is one of the five most expensive counties for housing in our state," she said.
Holmes said she suggests developing affordable housing on the surplus land found next to schools.
She said surplus property has been identified as no longer needed by local officials, and using it would reduce building costs and ultimately makes housing more affordable for a larger number of families.
Holmes said developing this surplus land next to schools could also help avoid costs and would reduce the number of high poverty schools by dispersing low-density affordable housing across the county –– creating a better learning environment for all students.
The city of Raleigh passed a plan this year which contains a two cent property tax rate increase that is projected to generate $11.4 million, with $5.7 million of that going towards improving Raleigh’s affordable housing program.
Morgan said Habitat for Humanity of Wake County has been making strides toward reducing the problem.
“We developed a strategic plan for growth, and so two years ago, we built 42 new homes, and last year 50, this year 60, next year 70," she said. “So we are really, from our perspective, growing to try to meet more of that need.”
Morgan said there is still work to be done.
"We can never put down our guard," she said. "We always have to be working on it."
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