County, city leaders hold meeting to discuss affordable housing

City and County leaders meet to discuss affordable housing. (Photo: Matt Bennett/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Working together to create more affordable housing.
It’s an issue that became more urgent after Hurricane Florence, and Thursday a meeting was held to discuss the problem.

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and Wilmington City Council held a joint special meeting to discuss the issue and come up with potential solutions.

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“The average county employee, the average teacher starting out at just about $30,000 a year, there’s not a home that they can buy in New Hanover County that fits that salary range,” said County Commission chairman Jonathan Barfield.

Before the meeting was over, county leaders voted to form an affordable housing advisory committee, hire a paid staff member using money already allocated in their budget, perform a study, and create a public awareness campaign to combat the stigmas associated with affordable housing.

“Typically, when you hear the word affordable housing, people think of minorities, they think of public housing, and affordable housing has nothing to do with public housing,” said Barfield. “It’s all about what you can afford, what your pocketbook can afford based on your salary.”

During the meeting, Barfield suggested partnering with a developer to create affordable housing on 15 acres of county-owned land on Castle Hayne Road.

He says he also spoke to county manager Chris Coudriet about creating affordable housing in the proposed Project Grace downtown.

“It would be great for the average person to be able to live downtown, just like everyone else does,” said Barfield. “And if we could find a way to incentivize the developer that we’re partnering with to build some affordable units within those apartments or condos or whatever we’re looking at doing there, I think it would be great for this entire community.”

During the meeting, Mayor Bill Saffo said there are less than 2,000 acres left for development, and he believes a housing bond will be necessary to purchase land to build affordable housing.