Volume 15, Number 45
This week the Gazette question to the two mayoral candidates is: Do you believe or have evidence that we do or do not have a lack of affordable housing in Wake Forest? If there is a lack, what do you propose as strategies to provide more affordable housing? Keep in mind that Wake Forest has one of the largest concentrations of low-income housing – the three Wake County Housing Authority-operated units on North Allen Road, North White Street and West Oak Avenue – in the county. Does the town need homes, apartments and townhouses that the teachers, etc., can afford to either buy or rent?
Also, town residents should mark their calendars for the candidates’ forum sponsored by the Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Nov. 24, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Renaissance Centre. All the candidates plan to attend. If you have a question for the candidates to answer that night, send it to Chamber President Ann Welton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Vivian Jones: The price of houses in Wake Forest continues to rise and when you see the new developments, they all are above what I would call affordable. At this point, the Town of Wake Forest has not committed any resources to solving the affordable housing shortage other than to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat has built several homes in Wake Forest over the past two to three years with help from the town and area churches. The town owns some property we purchased in conjunction with paving Caddell Street and we will be giving that property to Habitat to build six or seven more homes.
Town homes and apartments are another way to provide more affordable housing in the community. We need to allow adequate density in some town home developments to make it possible for developers to build with the amenities we require and still have affordable prices.
I know for the past two or three years the Wake County Housing Authority has been trying to get a grant to completely redo their housing located here in Wake Forest. I have worked with them on their application to HUD. It would be great if that could happen but that is a long way off, I am afraid.
Fortunately, we haven’t seen the “gentrification” here in Wake Forest that is happening elsewhere and that is a good thing. We have always been a town that welcomes everyone with a variety of housing types and prices and I believe we should work hard to be sure we stay that way.
At a recent conference, I learned of some initiatives they are using in other North Carolina towns and I hope to be able to discuss these ideas with the board and staff to determine if they might work here. If we decide to put some effort in this direction, I believe it would be great to have a task force of citizens to help us develop a plan.
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Jim Thompson: We have had the issue of affordable housing on our strategic plan for several years and no action has really been taken, so I am glad to see the Wake Forest Gazette challenging candidates to think and talk about this issue. The question that first must be answered is what defines affordable housing and what is needed for our community. The U.S. government defines affordable as spending no more than 30 percent of a person’s income on housing. So, if you are making $45K annually, you should spend no more than $13,500 a year on housing. If you consider the average sales price in Wake Forest is over $400,000 and the average household income is $83,000 then the average should be ok. However, you have to remember, those figures are just that, an average. There are citizens in Wake Forest whose annual household income is well above $83,000 and those that are significantly below. And yes, there are those who work in Wake Forest who can’t afford to live here. One of the challenges we have as it relates to affordable housing is something we can’t do anything about and it’s one of the challenges that come along with growth. As more people move to our area, it creates a supply/demand issue. According to a recent editorial in the News & Observer, “newcomers are driving up rents and overall housing costs and those of lesser means are struggling to keep or find affordable housing.” The one positive thing with Wake Forest is we have many housing options - single family homes, townhomes, condos for sale or rent and multi-family apartment rentals, etc. And I know it may seem crazy, but we do have a demand for more housing (of all types) based on what exists today and is being planned. It will be interesting to see some of the recommendations from the Wake County Affordable Housing Steering Committee. One thing must be realized is these recommendations are just the beginning of the conversation. Affordable housing is a regional concern and It has to be a conversation we have with our neighboring municipalities (and not just those in Wake County). We have to be talking to Franklin and Granville counties, too. Some of the things that will likely be addressed in their recommendations will be conversations around land use and planning. As I have mentioned before, Wake Forest has been at a disadvantage for a number of years without having the benefit of a comprehensive land-use plan. In addition to helping with economic development, its tool for planning as it relates to affordable housing and transportation. Another recommendation that will likely come out of the steering committee will be conversations around density. If it’s true that Wake County could double its population in the next 15 years, then we better be ready, And with projects like the Capital Blvd./US1 expansion, it certainly will happen in our area, much like what happened when 540 was connected to Capital. And speaking of things on a community level, one thing that might be beneficial also would be the creation of a Franklin/Granville/Wake Community Development organization. This could be a private-partnership with board members from the community and city/county governments that would focus on community development. This could be housing, employment, financial assistance, etc. I look forward to continuing to have this crucial conversation and help bring some real solutions to meet this challenge head-on. With your support, we can “Bring the Future to Wake Forest Today”. Visit www.electjimthompson.com for more information.