Mayor Saffo: More affordable housing could soon be coming to the city

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Some much-needed affordable housing could soon be coming to the City of Wilmington as a non-profit plans to buy an existing apartment complex for that purpose.

It’s no secret that there is lack of affordable housing in Wilmington and New Hanover County. Mayor Bill Saffo says it’s been an ongoing problem that was exacerbated by Hurricane Florence.

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A report by the city and county shows one in three households spends more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing, also known as cost burden.

“It’s something that we’ve been talking about for a number of years,” Saffo said. “We know that we have a deficit of about 10,000 units altogether throughout New Hanover County that we need affordable units.”

Seeing the need, the non-profit Foundation for Affordable Housing or FAH out of Nebraska now wants to chip away at that problem. They plan to buy the Pines of Wilmington Apartments, renovate the units, and make 75 percent of them affordable housing.

“They seem to be a very legitimate and good company that has provided affordable housing all over the country,” Saffo said. This particular project will be 233 units of which 174 of those units will be affordable.”

According to documents submitted to the city by FAH, The Pines currently offers apartments for between $820 and $1,250 per month.

FAH would offer 55% of its units at 80% of the area median income, and 20% of its units at 50% the area median income. Based on median income data from the US Census Bureau, that would be 46 units at around $568 per month and 128 units at around $909 per month.

The remaining 59 units would be offered at fair market value.

FAH lists a renovation budget of $2.5 million and is asking for the city’s endorsement to receive up to $25 million in federal financing.

During a meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Saffo says city council voted to hold off on making a decision until meeting the buyer. The buyer was supposed to be present, but had to self-quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure.

“We asked for the owner to come to the next designated city council meeting to talk to us so we can get to know who they are,” Saffo said. “Because we have had issues with Market Street North and with the Jervay Project.”

Saffo expects the buyer will be at the next meeting November 4, and council will make its decision then.

Click here to view the agenda from Tuesday’s meeting with results.

Click here to view the full meeting on YouTube. The affordable housing discussion begins at the 3:36:20 mark.