Raleigh's Affordable Housing Crisis is Dire Compared to Rest of NC

The Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that there are 354,851 extremely low-income renters in North Carolina (i.e., households living at or below 30 percent of the area median income, or AMI), and an estimated 46 affordable and available rental homes per 100 extremely low-income households.

The situation is even worse in Raleigh. There are just 31 affordable and available rental units per 100 extremely low-income households, while there are 110 affordable and available rental units per 100 middle-income households.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane acknowledges the challenge the city faces.

”That is one of the many reasons we have focused on affordable rental housing production, to provide [Section 8] voucher holders with more options,” she says.

The city’s budget allocates between $5.2 and $5.6 million annually for affordable rental development, totaling over $33 million in the next five years. The city also started allocating revenue from a property tax increase (approved in 2017) toward affordable rental developments for individuals and families making less than 60 percent of AMI. (That would help a family of four making less than $42,150.) The city plans to create 570 affordable rental units a year for the next ten years.

”We have been able to more than triple the number of units produced annually by affordable rental housing developers in the last four years, which is tremendous,” McFarlane says.

But while the city’s stock of affordable housing is rising, some housing advocates contend that the mayor’s initiatives focus more on workforce housing, aimed at young professionals, rather than on housing the very poor.

”Everybody talks about affordable housing,” Rainey says. “But in reality, we need to get on the same page. Fifty to sixty percent [of AMI] is not affordable. Thirty percent is affordable. That is the real need.”

In Raleigh, 30 percent of AMI would total about $23,000 a year for a family of four, nearly half of what the city uses as its affordability threshold.

Rainey, who has advocated on behalf of Raleigh’s poorest residents for decades, sees many factors contributing to the burgeoning housing crisis. She contends that Section 8 vouchers are getting harder to obtain, and the sixty-to-ninety-day window to find a landlord is unreasonable.

”There is no housing,” she says. “You may find a landlord here and there, but a majority of voucher holders need more than ninety days. It’s not an easy search.”

The city isn’t doing enough to help very low-income residents, Rainey contends, and some of RHA’s policies are exacerbating the problem.
— Anna McGheehan - Indy Week
Brent Woodcox