Friday, August 12, 2022

Cape Fear Community Land Trust revitalizes forever affordable home

Cape Fear Community Land Trust bought this home in Castle Hayne for a low price and is now selling it as a permanent affordable housing option. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands)

CASTLE HAYNE –– Volunteers of the Cape Fear Community Land Trust got their hands dirty Wednesday tidying up the yard of a revitalized home in Castle Hayne that will forever be preserved as an affordable property through deliberate deed restrictions.

The land trust completely renovated the red brick house on Blossom Street, and aims to put it on the market by July. Originally bought for $60,000, it’s targeting roughly $250,000 for the flipped home, which qualifies for purchasing through a USDA loan.

“We’ve gutted the entire house,” Jody Wainio, president of the Cape Fear Community Land Trust, said. “We’ve added another bathroom, a walk-in closet, laundry room.”

RELATED: Wilmington’s affordable housing crisis is as bad (or worse) than you thought

The land trust acquired the home using a construction loan about two years ago. At the onset of Covid-19 and lockdowns, it was difficult to nail down contractors, which prolonged the process. Volunteers are now close to finishing the property, complete with new HVAC, electrical, plumbing, roof and septic system.

“You name it, it’s got it,” Wainio said.

It isn’t the kind of flip that earns investors big bucks to buy up even more real estate, pricing out potential homebuyers, to sell at greater profits. Instead any revenue from the sale will funnel back into projects to create more affordable living opportunities for working families in New Hanover and neighboring counties.

The land trust is attaching a deed restriction to the house that requires whoever owns it to also live in it. The requirement will prevent investors from obtaining the home.

“We want it to be someone that needs a house to live, not someone who’s gonna make a bunch of money off of renting,” Wainio said.

In its 10 years, Cape Fear Community Land Trust has focused within the city limits, specifically in downtown Wilmington. Wainio said the nonprofit is open to expanding into Pender and Brunswick counties when the opportunity presents itself.

Widespread public interest in dwindling affordable-housing options has led the Cape Fear Community Land Trust to ramp up its efforts. It’s about to embark on a new build at 10th and Meares streets, and it recently collaborated with Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity on eight properties. In the partnership, the land trust owns the lot, and Habitat constructs the house.

“It allows them to afford more houses for their money because they don’t have to buy the land,” Wainio explained.

A Cape Fear Community and Trust volunteer works on the yard of a revitalized home. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands)

Affordable housing is a growing problem in New Hanover County, with homes rarely staying on the market past 20 days and rental prices below a grand a month being virtually nonexistent. Yet, most of the local jobs are service-related –– with employees earning sometimes only $9 or $10 an hour –– or are teachers and first responders who are victim to living cost-burdened, meaning more than a third of their income pays for housing.

“All of us need affordable housing, no matter how much money we make, but there’s been this stigma or this cloud put over folks that need affordable housing,” Wainio said.

Without affordable options in New Hanover County, most residents see no choice but to move outside of it. Wainio, a real estate agent, said one of her clients, a grocery store employee, was beat out by investors paying cash on multiple offers.  

“The next time you’re in line at Trader Joe’s, and you’re complaining because there’s only one register open, think about my client,” she said. “She probably had to move to Riegelwood and she got a flat tire and couldn’t get to work this morning because she had to drive so far.”

When disaster strikes, first responders are sometimes incapable of driving into duty when they live outside the county. Police, firefighters and nurses who cannot afford to live in the area where they work couldn’t report after Hurricane Florence flooded roadways, in turn affecting staffing issues, Wainio noted.

At the same time land trust volunteers and board members pruned trees and laid fresh soil Wednesday, elected officials met in a room with nonprofit leaders to brainstorm solutions to the problem, and how the local government could maximize a proposed $50 million housing bond if approved by voters. Paul Stavovy, executive director of the Cape Fear Community Land Trust, was among those in the meeting.

“We need to be recognized as a viable nonprofit that can provide affordable options for families and people living in the county,” Wainio said. “We want to be at the table.”

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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