WILMINGTON — As the prices of homes in Wilmington continue to rise, the need for affordable housing continues to be raised. Tuesday night, the city looked to start addressing the issue.
City Council accepted the Joint City/County Ad Hoc Committee’s report on improving workforce/affordable housing. The council also transferred $340,000 to existing city housing programs.
The committee presented its findings in June, and is awaiting a joint meeting with New Hanover County to decide how to proceed with the committee recommendations.
“The 15-member committee was jointly appointed by the NHC Board of Commissioners and the City Council earlier this year. The group is working to recommend best practices for increasing available workforce housing in the region. The establishment of this committee is a follow-up to one of the recommendations that came out of last year’s Mayor’s Roundtable on Affordable Housing,” Communications Manager Malissa Talbert said.
What is being done?
Currently, the city budget has allocated $400,000 for the committee’s recommendations, which is in the Sundry Transfer Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget as a placeholder until the approval of the committee report. Of the approved funds, $60,000 would be held for future recommendations from the committee.
Another program would allocate $90,000 for a program that provides low-interest home repair loans, Talbert said.
“The second program (the home repair loans) is to provide low-income loans to individuals, usually seniors, who have been in their homes for many years, who need a major repair done, but can’t afford to get it fixed … Instead of allowing those homes to fall into further disrepair, the loan program helps provide money to make the repair with the thought that the repair will help the individual remain in the home and help the neighborhood by not having dilapidated housing near others homes,” Talbert said.
Talbert also provided some facts and figures for the cost of living in Wilmington from 2013.
“According to federal guidelines, a family in Wilmington would need to earn $15.69 an hour to afford an average two-bedroom apartment in Wilmington, which is about $816 a month. But the average wage of a renter in Wilmington is only $11.09 an hour, which means that same household would need to find an apartment for $577 a month,” she said.
Council Member Kevin O’Grady addressed his concerns with the partnership with New Hanover County, specifically a lack of funding from the county toward the project.
The next step will be a meeting between New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington to decide where to do next when it comes to affordable housing solutions. While the future steps the committee will take is still unknown, one of the suggestions from city staff would be to create a public awareness campaign to address common misconceptions with affordable housing.
Michael Praats can be contacted via email at Michael.email@example.com.