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Council presented with recommendations from affordable housing taskforce

Ways to improve affordable housing in Wilmington were the focus of a presentation to the Wilmington City Council during its agenda meeting Monday morning. (Source: WECT) Ways to improve affordable housing in Wilmington were the focus of a presentation to the Wilmington City Council during its agenda meeting Monday morning. (Source: WECT)
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -

Ways to improve affordable housing in Wilmington were the focus of a presentation to the Wilmington City Council during its agenda meeting Monday morning.

Wilmington Community Develop and Housing Planner Suzanne Rogers shared with council members recommendations from the Affordable Housing Taskforce.  

Among the major discussion points during the presentation were the possible stigma of affordable housing, partnering with New Hanover County to tackle the issue and establishing a Housing Trust Fund.

The committee recommended sending out a survey and setting up a public awareness campaign to educate the public about affordable housing.

Multiple council members said that while many residents would say they support this kind of housing, they feel differently once it becomes a reality near them.

"I would recommend highly, before that survey is put out or any kind of campaign is out there, that you talk to elected officials and get input from them and see what their thoughts and opinions are," Mayor Bill Saffo said. "Affordable housing sounds damn good. The minute you put it out there, Lord have mercy. It's like a war. 'We want affordable housing. Don't put it in my back yard.' You should ask us because we're the ones that feel the actual dragon's breath.

"How about the social media aspect of it? Someone puts something out on social media or the internet, and it's the truth. 'Oh my God, they're bringing aliens from Mars here. They're going to destroy the neighborhood, the area, the community, the city.'"

Rogers stressed setting up a Housing Trust Fund as a key recommendation to the council

"In order to sustain affordable housing and gain some traction in our community, I think the really primarily drive and recommendation from the ad hoc committee was to establish that Housing Trust Fund," Rogers said. "Many other cities have done it - Asheville, Durham. Greensboro, Raleigh, the list goes on. It's something we can learn from others.

"That's going to help provide ongoing resources for affordable housing."

Rogers mentioned several different ways to establish the fund, including using a portion of property tax collected or investing 10 percent of sales from surplus property.

In the upcoming budget, which is expected to be approved at Tuesday night's city council meeting, the city has set aside $400,000 toward affordable housing.

Saffo stressed that the city and county need to work hand-in-hand to tackle the issue.

"We have a partner in this with the county," Saffo said. "They have more availability as far as vacant land than we do. They're going to have to play a big role. It's not going to be one-sided. At least, I hope not. 

"We hope the county will see the light and come on board," Rogers said.

Council member Kevin O'Grady asked Rogers if the county had money set aside for affordable housing in its next budget.

"They do not to my knowledge," Rogers said. "

"That doesn't speak well for a partnership," O'Grady said. 

Joint Committee on Workforce/Affordable Housing Recommendations

WITHIN THE NEXT SIX MONTHS

  • permanent advisory committee
  • housing study and opinion survey
  • land-use ordinances
  • fund a staff position
  • public awareness campaign with consultant

6-18 MONTHS

  • require city- and county-owned redevelopment projects to include affordable housing
  • streamline/expedite the permitting process
  • establish a Housing Trust Fund

18-PLUS MONTHS

  • support existing financial literacy and homebuyer education
  • encourage Cape Fear Public Utilities Authority to defer fees,offer payment plans and rebates for affordable housing developers
  • Synthetic Tax Increment Financing supporting the development of affordable housing
  • encourage the use of the 4 percent low-income housing tax credit bond program with bonds to be issued by Housing Authority
  • research the use of limited participation bonds to support the development of affordable housing 

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