WILMINGTON -- A new report reveals a lack of affordable housing in our area. The report concluded that the lack of workforce housing had several negative impacts, particularly on teachers, police officers, and healthcare workers. Teacher Stephanie Hardin recently bought her first home in Wilmington -- and on a teacher's salary, she says that was a challenge. Hardin said, "Once the mortgage starts coming due, you find you're living paycheck to paycheck. And that's just with the mortgage and totalities, not to mention the other expenses." According to a recent state-sponsored report, the rapid rise in the cost of housing can largely be attributed to retirees and second-home buyers moving to southeastern North Carolina. As a result, workers who provide essential services are often forced to live outside the communities they protect and serve. Realtor Jodie Wainio said, "People who work in Wilmington cannot necessarily afford to live in Wilmington. And where they can afford to live, they may not want to live because of the quality of life in that area." "Unfortunately, our salary makes it a difficult task to find a house that maybe our age group would prefer to live in the safer neighborhoods," Hardin said. A major factor: the price of real estate out-pacing the rise in salaries. In Brunswick County, for example, between 2000 and 2005, the average wage increased 2.5 percent annually. But the median home value increased 7.9 percent annually. The report also cites rapidly increasing land and construction costs as a major reason why more builders are not constructing affordable housing. "Builders' hands are a little tied with the price of land. The infrastructure costs have also gone up quite a bit, as well as materials costs." Sky-high real estate prices have forced many first-time homebuyers to find ways to supplement their income. Many have roommates even after buying to help with the mortgage payment "The house I bought has a rental property attached to it, so I'm renting that portion out," Hardin said. Help is on the way for some of those essential personnel who may have trouble affording a new home. Wainio met with New Hanover County Sheriff Sid Causey to discuss creating a program to educate law enforcement officers about how to become homeowners.
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