One in three North Carolina households struggles to afford housing, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing-related costs. Nearly one in four spends more than half. The state’s community economic development sector has been in the forefront of organizations working to provide affordable housing for North Carolina families.
Affordable housing took center stage in September at the N.C. Affordable Housing Conference, co-sponsored by the N.C. Housing Finance Agency, N.C. Housing Coalition and Community Investment Corporation of the Carolinas.
This year’s theme, “Housing Works,” made the case for affordable housing as an effective economic development strategy. It provides homes for North Carolinians whose needs are not met by the market, supports jobs in construction and related industries, and revitalizes communities hard-hit during the recession by sparking economic growth and boosting tax bases.
“Safe, affordable housing stabilizes communities because it supports a local workforce and fosters long-term residents,” said Bob Kucab, executive director of the N.C. Housing Finance Agency. “The economic impact on small businesses and communities is also significant. In North Carolina, all 100 counties have benefited from the jobs and tax revenues generated by affordable housing construction.”
One important resource for developing affordable housing is the N.C. Housing Trust Fund, celebrating its 25th year. The state-funded, state-designed housing finance fund is managed by the N.C. Housing Finance Agency. All of its appropriations go directly into bricks-and-mortar projects.
In 2011, every $1 of state funds produced $6.10 of affordable housing for North Carolinians. The fund has improved housing in all 100 counties, won three national awards, and financed 24,300 homes and $868.8 million of new construction and housing rehabilitation. In addition, it has generated 16,200 construction jobs, $53.6 million in state tax revenue and $63.3 million in local tax revenue.
“The trust fund is the state’s most flexible housing resource and we need it now more than ever,” said Kucab. “It addresses the state’s toughest housing problems from homeless shelters to homeownership, including supportive housing for persons with disabilities, accessibility modifications for very-low income seniors, and transitional housing for homeless veterans, victims of domestic violence and for a range of persons with other special needs.”
Many organizations funded by the Initiative provide affordable housing solutions in their communities. Among them:
- East Carolina Community Development Inc. in Jacksonville is developing its largest multi-family project to date – the 88-unit Wellington Grove Apartments. The property will have large open areas for recreation and family-friendly amenities, such as picnic pavilions and separate playgrounds for children and toddlers. The project is funded largely by tax credits from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency and addresses the community’s need for affordable rental housing. It is scheduled to be completed in 2013.
- Housing Assistance Corp. in Hendersonville celebrated the grand opening of Oak Haven Apartments in September. The 56-unit apartment community provides affordable housing for seniors ages 55 and older. The one- and two-bedroom apartments include safety features designed to prevent dangerous falls. The community includes picnic shelters, a screened porch, two community rooms, a computer room and laundry facilities. It is one part of Housing Assistance Corporation’s work to meet the needs of Henderson County’s significant elder population, which is 65 percent larger than the national average.
- Lexington Housing Community Development Corp. in Lexington purchased 11 historic homes for renovation through a $1 million grant awarded to the City of Lexington from the N.C. Department of Commerce Division of Community Assistance. Lexington Housing transformed the properties from substandard rental units into restored affordable homes for low- to moderate-income families. Nine of the homes have been sold to families at prices ranging from $39,900-$59,900.
- Passage Home in Raleigh recently secured $631,000 through a U.S. Veterans Affairs grant to provide supportive services and transitional housing for homeless veterans. Through the program, Passage Home will be able to place up to 15 veterans at a time in rental units and help them develop job and life skills that prepare them to transition into permanent housing. Passage Home offers a variety of permanent supportive housing and transitional housing programs, including housing for women who have exited the prison system and a sober living community operated in collaboration with The Healing Place of Wake County.
- Prosperity Unlimited in Kannapolis is wrapping up construction of a $7 million multi-family affordable housing development, called Forest Park Crossing. The tax credit project is slated to open in December. Prosperity has also completed seven home renovations using Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds provided by Initiative Capital. The previously foreclosed homes were renovated and sold to low-income families.
The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information, visit www.ncinitiative.org.