City Council to discuss potential workforce/affordable housing committee

The City of Wilmington's office complex on Chestnut Street and City Hall could soon be getting...
The City of Wilmington's office complex on Chestnut Street and City Hall could soon be getting a facelift. (Source: WECT)
Published: Jan. 15, 2016 at 4:48 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2016 at 5:58 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A committee could soon be made that would work to improve workforce/affordable housing in Wilmington.

Wilmington City Council is expected to discuss a resolution supporting the establishment of the city/county committee at their meeting Tuesday night.

The establishment of the committee is a follow-up to one of the recommendations that came out of the Mayor's Roundtable on Affordable Housing. If approved by the city and the county, the 12-member taskforce will be jointly appointed by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and the City Council to complete this work over the next six months.

Mayor Bill Saffo said more affordable housing is a big need for the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County.

"We need specific types of recommendations that we can implement," Saffo said. "This is something we've been talking about in our area for a long time and we are seeing other communities across the state that are doing some pretty great things with affordable housing and we have to keep enough of a supply out there so people can live here and work here."

He said solutions to affordable housing problems could include a loan program that people could qualify for at some lower rates, along with other options.

"Some of them may include us picking up the infrastructure costs for developments and in exchange they include a certain amount of affordable housing in the development," Saffo said. "The other one is to rehab homes, we are condemning on average three to four homes a month within the city, we need to see if there's a way to rehab those homes and make it more affordable for people to stay here in the city."

Council members are also expected to discuss a contract for design and engineering services for the central college trail transportation bond project.

The multi-use path will run 1.3 miles along the west side of South College Road, connecting Holly Tree Road to South 17th Street, where it will also connect with the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail. Construction is expected to begin in 2017.

Council member Paul Lawler said the trail is a vital part of the city, and the updates will mean more people have access to it.

"It promotes walking and exercising and getting out and that's just a good thing to have," Lawler said.

Also on the agenda is an agreement with New Hanover County for the city to provide fleet maintenance services to five county fire stations at a cost of $25,000.

The agreement comes from a recent study that looked at possible efficiencies between the Wilmington Fire Department and New Hanover County Fire Service District.

Lawler and council member Kevin O'Grady raised a few questions during the agenda brief about making sure the money covered all costs, including overhead.

"This sounds great that we will be having a cooperative approach with county fire,"Lawler said. "We just want to make sure that Wilmington's costs are covered so our taxpayers aren't subsidizing fire services outside of Wilmington."

During this next six-month trial period, city staff will also evaluate the feasibility of bringing the city's fire fleet into the city's central fleet operations. Currently, the WFD is the only department that maintains a separate fleet maintenance unit, housed at the headquarters on Market Street.

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