City loan program finances affordable housing for Wilmington’s east side

Updated: Oct. 16, 2020 at 6:05 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Affordable housing is a problem across the country, and Wilmington is no exception.

Just under half of New Hanover County residents rent their home, making them more likely to struggle to pay their rent.

On Friday, neighbors and government leaders alike got to see what what one of the programs put in place to address the problem can do for the community.

Kathy King bought a home on Henry Street back in 2014. At the time, it was in total disrepair. Since she began renovating the property last year, she’s completely gutted the house, replaced the roof and transformed the single family home into a duplex with two separate one-bedroom units.

The extensive work was funded through the City of Wilmington’s rental rehabilitation program, supplying a loan of up to $125,000 to restore the home to be ready to be used as affordable housing.

Henry Street property before renoavations
Henry Street property before renoavations(City of Wilmington)

“We at the city were able to provide some support to assist her with this and I just think that this is a wonderful example of people working in their community with her neighbors to improve the community and to keep that vitality going and provide decent, safe housing for folks,” said Suzanne Rogers, the city’s community development and housing planner.

According to Rogers, more than a third of Wilmington and New Hanover County doesn’t have access to affordable housing. When people must spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, they’re left with less money for childcare, education, food and health.

The rental rehabilitation incentive program has been underway for years now and its just one way Wilmington is trying to ease the affordable housing crisis. Other efforts include supporting nonprofits focused on helping vulnerable populations, working with affordable housing developers, repairing existing homes, and partnering with local banks to help working families become homeowners.

City workers agree the existing programs are making an impact.

“Our challenge is like everyone in the county—the demand—the need is greater than the resources so we will continue work to bring resources to bear,” said Rogers.

King, though, is grateful to be able to serve her community.

“I’m just really delighted to be part of the program,” said King. “I’m just really happy to have accomplished this and to support the need, close the gap in affordable housing in Wilmington.”

In a matter of weeks, the charming duplex will be home to a local veteran.

“I’m a vet and so my preference would be for vets to be able to occupy the spaces," said King. "I hope to find another [vet] or somebody with a disability because there is a ramp in the back, with easy access.”

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