Tuesday, July 23, 2024

LINC adds 4 units to affordable housing stock, lowers barriers for previously incarcerated

LINC purchased four apartments on S. Fourth St. from Cape Fear Collective to provide additional affordable housing options in the community, especially for the previously incarcerated who often struggle to find rentals. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — Adding to its current permanent supportive housing portfolio of 14 units, nonprofit Leading Into New Communities has purchased two duplexes. The goal is to support recently incarcerated individuals who may struggle to otherwise find rentals.

Leading Into New Communities executive director Frankie Roberts stumbled upon two duplexes for sale from Cape Fear Collective — a collaborative organization leveraging data and community assets to tackle inequalities — for $460,250. LINC purchased property on South Fourth Street, located near Dollar General and Burger King, and renovated the units to accommodate up to four families.

READ MORE: LINC founder looks to launch boarding school for Black teens by 2024

“We could also set up roommate situations, or rent to a single person; mother and child, father and child, a couple,” Roberts clarified.

The four two-bedroom apartments are located at 909, 911, 913 and 915 S. Fourth St. Cape Fear Collective renovated the buildings, which had sat vacant for a few years, and the first families should be moving in within a month.

“We did the renovating which is sort of why we had the property for as long as we did,” Cape Fear Collective director of community engagement Kevin Maurer said. “We acquire naturally occurring affordable housing with the idea of stabilizing them. … We don’t want to hold on to them; we want to put them back into the market earmarked for nonprofit partners to use for their programming.”

Maurer said Cape Fear Collective had been in discussions with Roberts about future land deals, and when the duplexes, already divided into four apartments, came available it was “a perfect match.”

LINC grew its portfolio of permanent supportive housing through a $460,250 loan from the City of Wilmington. The city is financing it through its Rental Incentive Loan Program using Community Development Block Grant funds, provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The CDBG program provides annual grants to states, cities and counties to develop urban communities by providing “decent housing, living environment and by expanding economic opportunities for low- to moderate-incomes.”

This is the first time LINC has used the loan program. 

Roberts said he closed on the 0% interest loan Friday but has been working out details with the city for about six months. The deed of trust on the downtown properties acts as collateral for the borrowed funds. The full amount is paid back to the city in monthly installments over 25 years.

“With the housing stock, it’s just hard to find affordable housing, so we decided to develop our own,” Roberts told Port City Daily. “It provides some permanency for those with a legal history and provides some support to ensure as much of their success as we can.”

New Hanover County has the second-highest rate of growth in the state for homes, increasing annually by 5.2% since 2013, according to Cape Fear Collective. Seven out of eight low-income residents pay more than one-third of their income on housing.

Rent at the new units will be around $950; legally LINC must rent to low- to moderate-income households and cannot exceed the HOME Rent limits set by HUD annually — currently $958. To afford this, without paying for more than 30% of income on housing, a tenant must earn $3,200 monthly.

“Our objective is to put individuals in a position not to survive but be able to thrive,” Roberts said.

Per the loan agreements, the apartments have to be affordable for at least 25 years.

Roberts explained it’s often difficult for the clientele he serves, those recently released from incarceration, to find housing.

“It’s a dire need because a lot of people won’t rent to people with a legal history,” Roberts said. “We’re always looking; if it sounds like it could be affordable for our organization, then we look into it.”

LINC’s database has a current waiting list of 25 to 30 people looking for a place to live after being released from jail. About 95% of individuals the nonprofit serves enter its programs straight from jail or prison. Most spend six to nine months at LINC’s transitional housing, which supports up to 45 individuals at a time.

“We always have people looking and calling saying they can’t find a place,” Roberts said. “People are eaten up with application fees.”

For LINC’s 14 permanent supportive housing units, a small $15 application fee is required, a drastic decrease from the average fees required at most rentals that can reach $100. There are no state regulations in North Carolina limiting the amount of an application fee.

Along with offering affordable housing, LINC assists with credit counseling to enable tenants to reach purchasing positions, more affordable than renting in the Cape Fear. Also through a partnership with Cape Fear Community College and the Department of Labor, LINC helps fund rent outright for about 80 clients currently in recovery housing, non-LINC owned permanent supportive units, or apartments.

Currently, LINC rents out a five-bedroom suite above its administrative offices on Castle Street, a three-bedroom on Clay Road, and a four-bedroom on Robeson Street. Future plans — two or three years out — include tearing down 1019 Princess St. and building one and two-bedroom efficiency apartments, up to three stories, in its place, Roberts said.

The Fourth Street units sat empty for years until Cape Fear Collective purchased them in October 2021. It’s part of the organization’s $17 million investment, which includes 84 residential properties and 103 units total. So far Cape Fear Collective has sold off 10.

Maurer explained Cape Fear Collective “recycles” the profits from selling properties to nonprofits or individuals to purchase additional housing.

In May 2021, it purchased Driftwood for $1.2 million, a 15-unit complex at risk of being foreclosed on. The relaunch will provide affordable housing to underserved populations, including the chronically homeless and those with disabilities. Norco Management will oversee daily operations and Good Shepherd will provide case management to tenants.

“The housing market is difficult and tough to get into,” Maurer said. “We’re hoping to lower that barrier and opening that aperture to allow more people to get in and giving nonprofits a chance to acquire the properties they need to continue doing the important work they’re doing.”

This article has been updated to show the city is financing the loan through its Rental Incentive Loan program with Community Development Block grants, not the HOME Investment Partnership Program. Port City Daily regrets this error.

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