Is Raleigh Really Spending More on Affordable Housing than Dix Park?

In a recent televised debate with her opponent, Charles Francis, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said, "We are spending more on affordable housing than we're spending on Dix Park right now."

PolitifactNC fact checked the statement...

Kate Pearce, the city’s point person for Dix Park, says the city budgeted $300,000 and $307,000, respectively, for ongoing maintenance at the park each of the past two years. Those figures include mowing, landscaping, clean-up and salaries of park staff members, she said.

The planning process and most of the programs held on the Dix property to this point have been paid for by Raleigh’s nonprofit partner, the Dix Park Conservancy. The conservancy signed a deal with the city last year promising to pay at least $2 million of the planning effort and may commit up to an additional $1 million for planning-related activities, she said.

So let’s recap: This fiscal year, the city expects to spend about $6 million on Dix-related debt and an additional $307,000 for Dix Park maintenance – combining for a total of $6.3 million in spending. ...

Larry Jarvis, director of Raleigh’s housing and neighborhoods department, says it’s hard to compare year-by-year affordable housing spending. For instance, a voter-approved bond referendum in 2011 set aside $16 million for affordable housing with some of the funds subject to annual expenditure and the rest committed to large affordable housing projects that sometimes take three years to actually complete.

”For large tax credit projects like Washington Terrace, local funds are committed or encumbered when the projects are awarded tax credits by the (North Carolina Housing Finance Agency) and then ‘spent’ during construction,” Jarvis wrote in an email. “All of the funds have been encumbered for specific affordable housing projects and the funds will be spent as construction progresses.”

In fiscal year 2017-18, the city budgeted $7.24 million on affordable housing units or housing-related spending, said Tonya Walton, a senior budget and management analyst for the city. ...

McFarlane said the city is “spending more on affordable housing than we’re spending on Dix Park right now.” The city’s $52 million purchase of the Dix property was certainly a big one. But the city’s is paying for it incrementally and McFarlane is right that the city this year is spending more on affordable housing – $7.24 million – than it is on Dix Park – $6.3 million.

We rate her claim True.
— Andy Specht, N&O

So here is the problem with this analysis. The purchase of the Dix Park land cost $52 million. We are currently spending $7.24 million per year on affordable housing. Therefore, merely the land acquisition deal was worth more than 7 years of city spending on affordable housing.

So while it might be technically true that on an annual basis the current budgeted amount is higher for affordable housing than for Dix Park, it would be hard to argue that the size of the investment of $52 million doesn't dwarf usual city spending on affordable housing.

It also ignores the fact that the Dix Park Conservancy is footing the bill for much of Dix Park including the high-priced consultants who are guiding the city's design process.

Of course, ultimately, when the vision and design process is completed in a couple of year and construction on the park itself begins, city taxpayers can expect for spending on the park to ramp up considerably and quickly. The initial $52 million investment is likely to be exceeded many times over with the costs of actually developing the park. The truth is that city spending on Dix Park is probably at an all-time low point right now. It is unlikely that spending on affordable housing will be increased at the same rate as what should be expected for the new park.

We rate this glass as half empty.

Brent Woodcox