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‘The time is now to do it’: Joint taskforce talks affordable housing solutions and $50 million bond

The housing bond will have to be approved by voters, and will likely be placed on the March 2022 primary election ballot
Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 1:31 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - For years, the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County have talked a lot about affordable housing, and while some action has been taken, there is still more that can be done.

On Tuesday, members of the ad hoc committee for workforce housing and public transit heard from members of the development community to hear some of their ideas, and complaints.

The conversation was often frank, with Dave Spetrino, the committee’s chairman, calling things like arbitrary height requirements “stupid and illogical,” and criticizing the bureaucracy that hinders development activity — and ultimately plays a role in driving up housing costs — in New Hanover County.

“I think one of the things that we’re seeing that has been continually occurring over the years, is the regulatory side of our work drives cost — not that it’s not important — but when they become so dominant that you are asking me for affordability, yet every time I turn around you’re asking me for additional components that make a house more expensive, you’re not going to get the result you want,” he said.

Blunt? Yes, but leaders did ask for unfiltered honesty and were receptive to the criticism. Another criticism from Spetrino was the amount of talking compared with actual action taken by the boards in solving the problems. That’s something New Hanover County commissioner Rob Zapple said he wants to see change.

“The longer we wait to try and do something, the more expensive it’s going to get. That is a message that was made clear today and in previous meetings. The time is now to do it,” Zapple said.

The idea of a $50 million housing bond is being suggested that could help fund more affordable housing units, as well as other programs to help with down payments, rehabilitation of existing homes, and more. What it would not be is the government just building “low income” housing that many people worry about going in their backyards.

“We’re not just talking about building projects, we’re talking about mixed-use homes, homes for people like firefighters, teachers, policemen, so it’s just exciting what we’re doing here,” Wilmington City Councilman Clifford Barnett said.

The housing bond will have to be approved by voters, and will likely be placed on the March 2022 primary election ballot.

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