Sunday, June 26, 2022

General Assembly working on bill that would require larger cities to report affordable housing efforts

The North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy NCGA)
The North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy NCGA)

If the bill were to be approved cities in the state with more than 90,000 residents would have to report their efforts to increase affordable housing to the state annually.

NORTH CAROLINA — The affordable housing crisis is not unique to Wilmington, it affects people across the country and the state which is why new legislation is making its way through the General Assembly that would require more accountability from cities regarding their progress in addressing the issue.

Senate Bill 316 is formally known as “AN ACT TO DIRECT CERTAIN MUNICIPALITIES TO REPORT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING, SUBSIDIES, AND ACTIVITIES RELATED TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING.”

What the bill would do, if approved as written, is require cities with populations greater than 90,000 residents (as of 2016) to report affordable housing information to the state.

But there’s a catch, it would only require cities to prepare a report on the number of units that are overseen by local government or subsidized by tax credits or local funding.

“Every municipality in this State with a population of at least 90,000, according to the July 1, 2016, Standard Population Estimates published by the Office of State  Budget and Management, shall prepare a report on the amount of affordable housing units  currently in use in the municipality that are subsidized by local government revenue or tax credits, or that have local government oversight,” the bill reads.

With a population of more than 100,000, the City of Wilmington would be responsible for providing information on its efforts to the state.

A state-wide definition

New housing in Wilmington and New Hanover County are being constructed, but what about affordable housing? (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
New housing in Wilmington and New Hanover County are being constructed, but what about affordable housing? (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

One of the major problems with affordable housing is the lack of a uniformed definition, but in this case, “Affordable housing is defined as housing affordable for a household with income of up to eighty percent (80%) of area median income (AMI), and moderate-income housing is defined as housing affordable for a household with income that is greater than eighty percent (80%), but not more than one hundred twenty percent (120%) AMI.”

Affordable housing is much more than just subsidized public housing or Section 8 housing, which is why the bill includes language regarding private development as well.

While not included in the official ‘report’ cities would have to include their efforts to limit the cost of private development.

“In addition, the report shall detail the strategies the municipalities are employing to limit the cost of privately developed housing, and shall, at a minimum, include the extent to which municipalities are engaged in the following activities:

  1. Rezoning for densities necessary to assure the production of moderate income housing.
  2. Facilitating the rehabilitation or expansion of infrastructure that will encourage the construction of moderate income housing.
  3. Encouraging the rehabilitation of existing uninhabitable housing stock into moderate income housing.
  4. Considering general fund subsidies to waive construction-related fees that are otherwise generally imposed by the city.
  5. Creating or allowing for, and reducing regulations related to, accessory dwelling units in residential zones.
  6. Allowing for housing in commercial and mixed-use zones.
  7. Encouraging higher density or moderate income residential development near major transit investment corridors.
  8. Eliminating or reducing parking requirements for residential development where a resident is less likely to rely on the resident’s own vehicle, such as residential development near major transit investment corridors or senior living facilities.
  9. Allowing for single-room occupancy developments.
  10. Preserving existing moderate-income housing.
  11. Considering utilization of State or federal funds or tax incentives to promote the construction of moderate income housing.
  12. Considering utilization of programs offered by the Housing Finance Agency within that agency’s funding capacity.”

A complicated problem

Artist rendering of the River Place development, currently under construction. Mellow Mushroom is the second confirmed restaurant tenant in the project. (Port City Daily photo / Courtesy Cape Fear Commercial.)
Artist rendering of the River Place development, currently under construction. (Port City Daily photo / Courtesy Cape Fear Commercial.)

While the City of Wilmington has approved plenty of rezonings in the past few years, the approval of rezonings to build specifically affordable housing are few and far between.

In fact, the city has entered into a public-private partnership with a developer to construct new luxury condos in Downtown with one-bedroom units starting at $300,000 or more.

Related: River Place, a multi-million dollar, taxpayer-funded luxury condo development won’t have affordable options

One of the problems with building affordable housing in Wilmington is the ever-increasing cost of land, as prices go up, it becomes less viable for developers to construct affordable housing.

But rezoning of land to allow for more dense development could help entice developers to construct units that are more affordable, although, it is not a guarantee.

Related: Homebuilders: Affordable housing in Wilmington is complicated, costly, and in many backyards, unwanted

For several years the City of Wilmington’s elected leaders have been discussing affordable housing and recently the City and New Hanover County came to an agreement to create a full-time affordable housing/workforce housing committee. 

The bill still needs to move through both houses of the General Assembly before it can be made into law and language could change before that happens, regardless, the lack of affordable housing will continue to be a concern for local leaders as well as state officials.


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