WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Blue tarps cover nearly every roof at Market North Apartments, a subsidized, low-income housing community in Wilmington. Mailboxes remain empty, and windows are boarded up more than three months after residents were forced to evacuate with little notice.
While Hurricane Florence recovery efforts are underway across the area, there is no sign of any repair work at Market North.
There is no record of repairs either. According to Kate Murphy, the communications and outreach coordinator for Emergency Management and Recovery in New Hanover County, no hurricane related permits or projects have been filed for Market North Apartments.
Murphy not only searched records for 111 Darlington Avenue — the address of Market North — but also surrounding locations.
WECT reached out to Market North property managers for more information.
Jake Dumas, a representative with Axio Management Strategies, sent the following statement via email:
“We are continuing to work here at Market North to repair the damage to the property inflicted by Hurricane Florence and get our residents moved back into their original homes as soon as possible. We are in constant communication with our funding partners and are working alongside all of the parties involved with this process to ensure that the necessary repairs are completed in a timely manner while maintaining the highest standard of safety at the property. This has been a difficult time for all of us in the Wilmington area, and we do not take lightly the impact that this process has had on our residents. We want them moved back into their original homes just as much as they do.”
After receiving Dumas’ statement, we asked for specifics of exactly what work has been done. WECT has yet to receive an answer to that question.
We also asked if property management had any intention of selling the property or re-developing it. Luxury apartments have been built in the areas surrounding Market North, and residents were becoming concerned Market North would be rebuilt into non-subsidized housing.
“We are 100 percent committed to the preservation of Market North as a Section 8 housing project and moving our residents back into their original units," Dumas said. "We have no intention or plan to sell the property or redevelop it into anything other than the Section 8 housing project that it currently is. Once the repairs are complete, Market North will continue to function the same as it did before Hurricane Florence.”
With a need for affordable housing made worse by Florence, many continue to reel from the effects nearly four months later.
Katrina Knight, the executive director of the Good Shepherd Center — an emergency shelter in Wilmington — said it has rehoused more than 50 people post-Florence, but it continues to become increasingly difficult.
“Lack of affordable housing was really at a crisis point well before Hurricane Florence and now you have a crisis made even worse by current conditions where lots of new folks are looking for housing or even temporary housing while their homes are being repaired," Knight said. "The hardest hit are always your lower income folks so people who are working but not earning enough to overcome the gap between so many different hourly rates or salaries and what you really need to afford decent, reliable housing in not just Wilmington but our larger region.
"The fact that repairs have yet to begin at Market North highlight the need for affordable housing.
“I think it’s a very understandable and reasonable concern that, whether it’s one or many of the developments that were either lower income housing or what we call workforce housing, that if we were to remove those from the available housing stock that we would have an even more severe situation here. “
As the cost of living in Wilmington continues to rise, Knight talked about the economic impact of forcing lower income residents out.
“Every community I’ve ever lived in, we need people at all ends of the economic spectrum," Knight said. "It would be wonderful if everyone could earn above a certain level and I think we should strive for that but just in the course of a given day, you go out into town or go into this or that restaurant or going out into the different offices, there are folks that have to clean those buildings. There are folks who provide the services that you require when you go out in the community just to have your own needs met. If those folks aren’t earning a housing wage to where they can’t live here with their families, that doesn’t just affect a household unit. It really begins to affect the rest of us as well.”