Affordable housing committee meets with local builders and nonprofits

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — Wednesday, members of the Wilmington City Council and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners held an affordable housing meeting to address the growing need.

According to a recent study, the city and county will need to provide 20,000 more housing units over the next ten years, with more than half as affordable housing in order to keep up with the demand.

With current supply, the Wilmington Housing Authority said it’s impossible to address every housing need in the Cape Fear. That’s especially true since some units, like those in the Hillcrest community weren’t designed to be permanent places to live.

“The construction quality at the time was for temporary housing,” said Wilmington Housing Authority’s Chief Executive Officer, Katrina Redmon. “We’ve done the best we could. We’ve put different colored bandages on that property… but you know when you have a property that you really can’t do anything with, you’re just adding more and more lipstick (to the pig).”

Hillcrest, built during wartime to temporarily house shipbuilders, makes up more than 200 of the Wilmington Housing Authority’s 1,300 units. With rising property prices, the lack of supply is leading to many getting priced out of town.

“I understand why investors and folks moving in from out of town have the money and are spending the money to be able to get the house they want,” said Tom Gale, President of Cape Fear Realtors. “But it really is pricing out folks here that have lived here for a long time and are gainfully employed here and are just trying to have a place of their own.”

Wednesday’s joint session included local non profits, builders, and developers. One suggestion popular with almost all developers: allowing for taller buildings and more density.

“Height and density do make a difference in our ability to provide affordability,” home builder, Dave Spetrino explained. “Mainly because the land cost is going to be the same whether you build a two story home or a three story home.”

A general obligation bond proposal also gained traction. It would raise taxes incrementally to provide money for housing and encourage private sector builders to help.

According to New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple, “We’ll make it easier so that we can build this stock that we’re talking about, and try and remove some of those roadblocks that are in there or some of that red tape and free that up so that we can get the full energy of the county and our private sector working together.”

Next week, New Hanover County Commissioner and Wilmington City Council will have a joint meeting, where committees will present their findings and potentially vote on solutions.

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