Solutions to Wake County's growing affordable housing crisis could require substantial new revenue and changes to county land-use policies, according to a draft presentation on the topic received Monday by the Board of Commissioners.
A study by consultants HR&A Advisors found that the county experiences a net loss of between 800 and 1,300 affordable units a year, despite city and county efforts that produce about 1,000 units. A current affordable housing shortfall of 56,000 units is expected to increase to 140,000 during the next two decades.
Sig Hutchinson, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said after the presentation that the county should budget an additional $10 million annually to affordable-housing efforts as part of a package of health and quality-of-life initiatives.
Workers spray bleach on the former Forest Hills Apartments in Garner as residents prepare to move out on the complex's last day.
Hutchinson said he believes voters would endorse another quarter-cent sales-tax increase if asked to support the program in a 2018 referendum. The $10 million devoted to affordable housing would become a continuing source of funding.
"Dollars beget dollars," he said.
Causes of the shortfall include Wake's rapid population growth, failure of household incomes to keep up with housing prices, loss of existing subsidized development to renovation, and the small portion of new residential construction that is affordable, the consultants said.
The report from New York-based HR&A recommends using "cross-cutting tools," or strategies that affect several different types of affordable housing. These include building rental units, preserving existing stock, constructing units for equity ownership, and creating supportive housing.
“These tools focus
on reducing barriers that add time and cost to the development process and expanding the resources available to support all types of affordable housing,” the report says.
Some of the recommendations would require revisions in Wake's uniform development ordinance, or UDO, as well as changes in the regulations of cities such as Raleigh. Two of those directions are the establishment of housing overlays and the expanded use of accessory dwelling units, including tiny houses.
In addition, the consultants recommended using publicly owned land either as a site or funding source for new affordable housing. Other proposals using tax increment financing, a means of funding that relies on the increasing value of publicly subsidized projects.
Another idea is to "establish a Landlord Partnership Program to increase private landlords’ willingness to accept vouchers by streamlining the voucher administration system and providing landlords with greater support and risk mitigation."
The detailed presentation by HR&A's Philip Kash and Sara Brown left Commissioner Jessica Holmes, among Wake County’s champions for the affordable-housing cause, determined to keep officials focused on it.
"The thing now is to turn talk into units," Holmes said.