Wilmington City Council allocates $1.65M to housing authority to address mold problem

Wilmington City Council's agenda was especially lengthy on Tuesday night.

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington City Council met on Tuesday night and they recognized a group of people for their work relating to forever chemicals.

The city recognized the research team from NC State University that detected Gen-X in the Cape Fear River led by professor Knappe. Council also recognized investigative journalist Vaughn Hagerty. Hagerty was a freelance journalist for StarNews Online in 2017 when he broke the story about the toxins in the drinking water.

The budget was up for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting. The council voted six to one to adopt the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget on the first reading. Councilman Luke Waddell was the only dissenting vote. Waddell expressed concern about raising the taxes in the city the same year the council members are set to get a pay raise.

The city says the $251-million balanced budget will prioritize affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, and providing high-quality core services. A second vote will take place at the council meeting on June 21. Following the vote, the budget will take effect on July 1.

Earlier in the meeting, council approved the annexation and rezoning of a property on Middle Sound Loop Road. The property will be home to a 72-unit affordable housing development for older adults 55 and older. Some people turned out in opposition of the project, but it had already been approved by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners last month. The purpose of the discussion on Tuesday night was to approve the annexation into city limits and establish what zoning code would fit the city to most closely match what it was zoned for in the county.

Coming soon to Eastwood Road is a new indoor skydiving attraction. The development was unanimously recommended by the planning commission but the city staff did not support the building because it did not align with developments in the surrounding area. However, council overwhelmingly supported the business and asked developers to create a design that would be more complimentary to the area. The attraction was approved six to one with Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes voting in opposition, agreeing with city staff.

Council allocated the final amount of $162,000 from the closing of Optimist Park to permanent supportive housing. $42,000 of the funds will go to Eden Village for the purchase of a tiny house. The remaining $119,000 will go to future housing projects.

The meeting ran much longer than typical city council meetings. Around 11 pm, council had made its way through the regular agenda. At the end, there was a “walk-on” agenda item giving the Wilmington Housing Authority more than a million dollars to address a mold problem that’s left 150 families displaced. 

The Wilmington Housing Authority identified a $6.3-million gap in capital expenditures associated with the mold problem. The authority has applied for a $3-million grant from the state, so the city and the county are aiming to fill in the gaps since the issue is in immediate need to be resolved. Council voted to allocate $1.65-million to the housing authority from the city’s unassigned fund balance.

In conjunction with allocating the funds, the city is allowing the city manager to create agreements on how the funds will be distributed. Because of the immediacy, the agreements have not yet been determined. For example, the funds could be given to the WHA in parts and a certain amount could be a grant from the city and the rest will be a loan the authority will have to pay back.

Though the housing authority isn’t a city entity, Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes says it’s all about helping the citizens in need.

“They are currently in hotel rooms. Families are in hotel rooms. Obviously with no place to be able to cook and prepare meals and all of that, so there is a rush to try and get the units they were in rehabilitated and to be environmentally sound and able to accommodate them again,” Haynes said.

WHA CEO Tyrone Garrett estimates 105 units will be back online in 26 weeks. Additionally, Garrett says the authority is seeking out other grants to fund the remediation as well.

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