January 6, 2021

Union veterans telling stories to a group of boy scouts at the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1938. Source: https://www.achs-pa.org/

Regarding January 6, 2021

To understand the meaning of democracy we need to reflect on our history. I start with the final words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Those very last words – government of the people, by the people, for the people – are the cornerstone of our democracy. We cannot accept people storming the Capital in Washington to get their way through violence and force.

There will always be transitions in government and we must rededicate ourselves to ensure that those transitions are peaceful and orderly and determined by elections. We can never accept the chaos and tyranny that we saw on January 6, 2021.

Nor can we accept as leaders of our Country those who would stand by and allow it to happen.

The Future of Raleigh City Council

Hello Everyone,

Recently the City of Raleigh began a poll regarding the future structure and compensation of City Council. The poll asks five questions. Before I present these questions, I want to first offer my own opinion about the future of Raleigh City Council.

Raleigh is a big city. The latest census shows that 467,000 people now live in Raleigh. Currently, Raleigh City Council consists of five district Council Members, two Council Members elected at-large, and the Mayor for a total of eight. Each District Council Member represents more than 90,000 citizens. Thus, each district is as large as a small city. And each district covers a large geographic area. Raleigh’s total geographic area is 144 square miles. Each District covers nearly 29 square miles. Despite the City’s growth both in geographic area and population, the Raleigh City Council has remained unchanged for 50 years.

Now is a good time to consider change and I propose that the City of Raleigh should double the number of District Council Members from five to ten and eliminate the two at-large Council Members. Doing so would increase the Council from eight members to eleven. Moreover, this change will greatly improve representation on Council and give even
more people the opportunity to serve.

I first ran for City Council in 2015. Running for Council can be a daunting prospect. When running for Council you want to meet people to tell them your story and explain why they should vote for you. I have been extremely fortunate to have had a number of volunteers who contributed countless hours knocking on doors in the extreme heat of the summer months. And I have been fortunate to raise enough money to pay the printing and postage to send mailers throughout my district.

But these expenses and the large population and geographic area are a significant barrier to conducting an election campaign. Because of these barriers most very qualified individuals never consider running for public office. These barriers are a disservice to the citizens of Raleigh because the field of candidates becomes limited to those with deep pockets and wealthy contributors. It really is a fluke when someone can run an effective grassroots campaign and actually win in the City of Raleigh.

We can level the playing field a lot by increasing the number of District Members from five to ten. Doing so will result in Districts that are both half the size geographically and half the population. Each District would have about 45,000 citizens or about 19,000 households. Smaller Districts eliminates barriers and makes mounting an effective campaign much easier thus opening the door to greater participation.

Moreover, with more Districts, there is better representation. Rather than the Council being dominated as it has been historically by individuales who live inside the beltline, more districts will ensure that representatives are elected from all quarters of the City.

More Districts also eliminate any argument for changing from two year terms to four year terms. It is being argued now that it is too difficult to run a campaign every two years. I argue that small Districts make it much easier to run a campaign. Thus, any “practical” need for four-year terms is eliminated. Moreover, two-year terms give the People the opportunity to change Council and provide a check and balance on elected officials – something very much needed in today’s world.

And isn’t that the purpose of democracy? To ensure that people are heard and are truly represented in the important decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. And that those elected are held accountable through regular elections.

Let me now return to the City of Raleigh’s poll about changing City Council. Unfortunately, that poll does not consider the points that I just presented. Instead, the poll presents far more limited choices.

Should City Council transition from two-year to four-year terms?

Should City Council increase its size to nine by adding one district seat?

Should City Council increase its size to nine by adding an At-Large member?

There is no option in this poll for adding more than one District Member. Moreover, it asks if an at-large member should be added. In my opinion, another at-large member would not increase representation or participation on Council. Instead, it will result in a Council that is dominated by the few who have the connections to wealthy donors to get elected.

Today you can make your voice heard by answering this poll. I ask that you consider responding as follows:

Answer DISAGREE on changing from two-year to four-year terms.

Answer DISAGREE on adding an At-Large member.

Answer AGREE on adding one district seat.

While the last option doesn’t get us where we truly need to be, for
the purposes of this poll, it is, in my opinion, the best answer.

The remaining two questions on the poll concern compensation for the
members and the mayor. I offer no opinion on those questions.

To participate in the City of Raleigh’s poll, please visit this website:


Please pass this post on to others in your community by copying this link:


Thank you,

David Cox, PhD
Member, Raleigh City Council, District B

Rezoning Near Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve

Recently a request was submitted to rezone land directly across the Neuse River from Raleigh’s Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve. The property fronts Louisburg Road adjacent to the bridge over the Neuse River.

The hearing for this case has not yet been set. However, it could be as soon as December 7, 2021. The public will be able to sign up to speak at the hearing. Please check back for updates!

We have received a number of messages from people truly concerned about the impact that this rezoning and development could have on the Nature Preserve. I compiled a list of key questions about this proposal and have received feedback from the Raleigh Planning Department.


The current zoning of the parcels in question is R-4. The proposed rezoning is for RX-4-PL-CU. Approximately 10 acres is developable and approximately 30 acres are in the 100-year floodplain or floodway of the Neuse River.

R-4 stands for Residential – 4 units per acre which would have limited development to 40 homes. However, City Council recently changed the City’s development ordinance to allow more than 4 units per acre. As you will see below, R-4 can now allow approximately 171 dwelling units. Maximum height would be limited to 45 feet.

RX-4-PL-CU stands for Residential Mixed Use – 4 stories (not 4 units per acre). The PL stands for parking limited which allows parking next to the street. Raleigh’s Comprehensive Plan specifies that the frontage should be Parkway and should provide significant trees and vegetation using a 50 foot wide protective yard. CU stands for conditional use.

The primary condition for this case is to limit the number of units to 375. Buildings can be as high as 68 feet. Mature trees on the site as well as at Horseshoe Farm Nature preserve are 30 to 35 feet tall.

Another condition says that the developer will build a ten foot wide multiuse path from Louisburg Rd to the Neuse River Greenway as long as the path is NOT required by the City of Raleigh or Federal Law to be ADA-accessible.

Instead of providing a 50 foot protective yard as required for Parkway frontage, the proposal calls for a 20 foot wide strip landscaped with 4 trees and 15 shrubs per 100 feet.

With this background, here are specific questions and answers from the Planning Staff:

What is the potential development intensity on the site?

Existing R-4 zoning does not require a street protective yard as a Parkway frontage would, but does require tree conservation.  It is staff’s judgement that the existing zoning’s tree conservation standards would result in a comparable level of vegetation as the parkway frontage.   Existing zoning would allow for approximately 171 dwelling units.

Under the proposed zoning (RX-4-PL-CU), total development would be limited by zoning conditions to 375 units.   Staff believes that more than 375 units could be placed on this property with the parkway frontage applied, absent the aforementioned zoning condition restricting the unit-count to 375 units.

What is the maximum height in the existing R-4 zoning?

The maximum height is 40 feet for the Detached and Attached building types. It is 45 feet for the Townhouse building type.

Provide a visualization of whether the building would be visible in Horseshoe Farm Park

The applicant has agreed to provide this information at the hearing. Mature trees on the site and in Horseshoe Farm park are 30 to 35 feet tall.

How could the request mitigate visibility from Horseshoe Farm Park?

By reducing maximum building height via zoning condition.  Sixty-eight feet is the maximum allowed in the proposed zoning (RX-4-PL-CU). 

Life of a Firefighter in Raleigh

It is 2021. Raleigh has 29 fires stations and 544 firefighters. So far this year Raleigh’s firefighters have:

responded to 16,026 rescue & emergency medical service incidents
responded to 682 fire incidents
responded to 1817 service calls
responded to 3073 false alarms and false calls
responded to 4203 good intent calls
responded to 6 severe weather and natural disasters
responded to 12 special incidents

A Raleigh firefighter typically works a schedule that repeats every nine days: one day on, one day off, one day on, one day off, one day on, four days off. For each “on” day the firefighter works for 24 hours and “sleeps” in the station. In a given month a firefighter works 9 to 11 “on” days. Including sleep time, this comes to somewhere between 216 and 264 hours a month. Compare that to a “regular” employee who works 40 hours a week or 160 hours a month.

Some will argue that during an “on” day a firefighter will “sleep” during that 24 hour period. I put “sleep” in quotes because often the nights are interrupted for calls (see above, 16,026 rescue and emergency medical service incidents in 8 months not to mention other types of incidents).

Each month a firefighter accrues a certain number of “days” vacation depending on length of service. For example, a firefighter with 10 years of service will accrue 1.5 “days” of vacation every month. The formula is the same for other City of Raleigh employees.

For regular employees an accrual of a day vacation is an accrual of 8 hours. If you want to take a Friday (or a Monday) off for a long weekend, you can do so by using one day vacation.

For a firefighter it is different. Their day of vacation amounts to 12 hours. To take an entire day off (remember, firefighters work 24 hour shifts), they must use two days of accrued vacation.

One of the things that I would like to do is to change how firefighters use their accrued vacation – allow them to take one 24 hour day off using one day of accrued vacation.

Let’s recognize that the life of a firefighter is very different from regular employees such as office workers. Firefighters are at their workplace 216 to 264 hours a month. Even though they can sleep at the station, that sleep is often interrupted and they are expected to respond in top form day or night. So far this year that has meant responding to more than 16,000 rescue and emergency medical incidents – in top form.

I think that using one day of accrued vacation for a 24 hour period is fair given the hours worked, the nature of the job, and how many of us literally depend our lives on them.

The Corner Store and Nostalgia

In today’s News & Observer Ned Barnett argues in favor of a zoning change to bring back the 1940’s corner store as recommended by Jonathan Melton and others on Council.

Being born in 1958 I remember corner stores. There was one called Zdarkos. In fact, the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Zdarko, lived across the street from us. They easily walked to work every day. The store was their business and their livelihood. It was located one block away on our town’s main street – not directly in the neighborhood. In fact all the many “corner stores” were located on main streets. To survive economically, they needed on-street parking where people could stop and run in for a quick purchase. And they needed to be on a street that provided enough traffic to stay in business.

As kids we went there to buy candy, soda (which we called pop) and, I hate to admit this, my mom sent us there with notes to buy cigarettes. And, yes, they sold them to us and I dutifully carried them home. Remarkably, I never smoked. But my mom, who I miss dearly, died of lung cancer in 1993. She was 58 – way too young.

Today’s zoning change is being driven by unrealistic nostalgia. Mr. Barnett and my colleagues on Council envision a utopia where people walk and bike to the corner store to buy healthy foods and beverages. Some, they say, might even offer cooking classes. The prediction is that they would not be the typical convenience store with gas pumps and people who loiter.

Unfortunately, Mr. Barnett and my colleagues ignore reality. In 2014 Michelle Lent, a professor in clinical psychology at Temple, along with several other researchers published an article in Public Health Nutrition entitled, “Corner store purchases made by adults, adolescents and children: items, nutritional characteristics and amount spent.” For their study they examined 9,238 purchases of 20,244 items at 192 corner stores in Philadelphia. They examined the foods and beverages purchased.

Lent and others found that consumers purchased and average of 2.2 items per visit. The items were split between an average of 1.3 “foods” and 0.9 “beverages” containing and average of 666 calories. The breakdown in these purchases is revealing and leads them to conclude, “Obesity prevention efforts may benefit from including interventions aimed at changing corner store food environments in low-income, urban areas.”

Let’s take a look at the breakdown in purchases. Overall, beverages were purchased during 65.9% of store visits and 61% of the beverages were sugar sweetened drinks with the top beverage being regular soda. After beverages the top items purchased were chips, prepared food items, pastries, and candy. Fruits and vegetables came in at the bottom representing only 2.3% of the items purchased.

When broken out by age the results were even more striking. For children the top purchases were beverages, chips, candy, pastry, and ice cream causing fruits and vegetables to drop to 1.0%. Adolescents were similar with fruits and vegetables at 1.3%.

Soon, Council will consider Jonathan Melton’s proposal to change zoning to allow corner stores in R-4, the designation for residential neighborhoods. The promise is unrealistic 1940’s nostalgia that will magically bring healthy foods that people will carry home on their bicycles.

Instead these will, in all likelihood, be quick, convenience purchases for high calorie snack foods. People will continue to drive to Wegmans, Harris Teeter, and other grocery stores for their weekly meals. And we will continue to see our neighborhoods eroded with zoning changes to allow an increasing number of business uses.

What Do We Spend Our Tax Dollars On?

I received this email tonight from a frustrated Raleigh citizen. We receive email such as this regularly. I fully support spending more tax dollars and fees on actual services and infrastructure. Many of our read are a mess not only with potholes but also patches and roads that have not been resurfaced in decades. This leaves our streets and neighborhoods unsightly and diminishes home values and quality of life. I thank this citizen for a well written note that nails it.

Having received no response – not even from my district A representative – to my first email, I am writing again to protest the new yard waste collection policy. It was evidently passed in the dark of night without previous announcement to your constituents via local news outlets. None of my neighbors or friends in other neighborhoods had known of this policy when I told them of it. It is one more example of how our “representatives” continually reduce services while increasing taxes and fees. It is difficult to understand what you are spending our taxes on. The only projects I see are bike lanes painted on roads rarely travelled by cyclists and a rearrangement of Oberlin Rd. Our roads are riddled with potholes. Glenwood Avenue, a road travelled by many visiting Raleigh for the first time, is a disgrace, as are Lead Mine Rd., Old Lead Mine Rd., and to a lesser degree, Creedmoor Rd.

Apart from that, biweekly collection of yard waste in one bin the size of our garbage and recycling bins, is insufficient. We live on a small lot in a small subdivision. We have a modest lawn, an average number of shrubs and trees, and (in late spring, summer, and early fall) a small backyard vegetable garden. But we often (especially during gardening season) produce 200 to 250 gallons of yard waste, In fact, in late fall, when I uproot our vegetable garden and prune shrubs and small trees, we will produce that amount of refuse in two or three successive weeks.

I resent being required to buy probably two or three such bins I will need at most a half dozen times during summer and fall. One will do during winter and early spring. I have no place to keep two more out of sight.

I attached a photo of one recent week’s yard waste awaiting collection at our curb. As you can see, there are one 30 gallon and five (three overflowing) 40 gallon containers of yard waste.
Please reconsider this further reduction of quality of life in our city.
Thanks for your attention.

2020 Census Data Now Available

According to Census.gov, 2020 census redistricting data is now available (link provided below). But the webpage announcing this is a bit confusing. What is available is the data which was provided on August 12. What will be provided by September 30 is the “full redistricting data toolkit.”

If you scroll down a bit on their webpage, you will see the following statement:

The U.S. Census Bureau provided redistricting data as legacy format summary files for all states on August 12, 2021. We reaffirm our commitment to providing the full redistricting data toolkit by Sept. 30, 2021.

Legacy Format Summary Files


If you click on Legacy Format Summary Files, you will be taken to another webpage that looks like computer directory with folders named by state. If you click on North Carolina, you will go into that folder and see that there is a zip file: nc2020.pl.zip. You can download that file and extract the contents.

The contents consist of four “.pl” files. These are “pipe delimited” files. A “pipe” is the name for a character on your computer keyboard, “|”, which is a vertical line. This is the character that is used in these files to separate data fields. You might have heard of comma delimited files where data fields are separated by commas. In this case pipes are used to separate the fields. It is possible to import the data into Microsoft Excel or other data management tool.

The tricky part is understanding what you get because the data is arranged hierarchically. I am working now to do just that.


Draft Ordinance for Wild and Exotic Animals

Tonight I received email from the City Attorney with a draft ordinance for wild and exotic animals. In the interest of transparency, I share the ordinance here.



Section 1. Section 12-3004 of the Raleigh City Code definitions for “domesticated animal” and “Pet shop” are hereby modified to read as follows:

“Domesticated animal. An animal that is accustomed to living in or about the habitation of human beings, including but not limited to cats, cows, dogs, fowl, horses, rabbits, domesticated birds or any other domesticated animal that is not inherently dangerous to persons or property.”

“Pet shop. This term shall mean a person or establishment that acquires for the purposes of resale animals bred by others whether as owner, agent, or on consignment, and that sells or offers to sell or trade such animals to the general public at retail or wholesale.”

Section 2. Section 12-3004 of the Raleigh City Code is hereby amended by deleting the definitions for the following: “Cattery” “Holding facility.”

Section 3. Section 12-3004 of the Raleigh City Code is hereby amended by inserting the following new definitions into the section in the proper alphabetical order:

“Impoundment. This term shall mean possession or seizure of an animal by the animal control unit of the Police Department, or its designee, to enforce the provisions of this chapter.

“Wild or exotic animal. Any non-domesticated animal, which is normally found in the wild state, is particularly dangerous to persons or property, or which generally does not live in or about the habitation of humans, including, but not limited to deer, wolves, coyotes, non-human primates, monkeys, apes, lions, tigers, reptiles (venomous, crushing, and giant), alligators, crocodilians, raccoons, opossums, skunks, squirrels, ducks, geese, crows, gulls, and any hybrid or crossbreed of such animals.”

Section 4. Section 12-3035 of the Raleigh City Code (PET SHOP STANDARDS) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3035 in its entirety.

Section 5. Section 12-3036 of the Raleigh City Code (KENNEL STANDARDS) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3036 in its entirety.

Section 6. Section 12-3038 of the Raleigh City Code (STANDARDS FOR CATTERIES) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3038 in its entirety.

Section 7. Section 12-3039 of the Raleigh City Code (GENERAL HEALTH CONDITIONS IN HOLDING FACILITIES) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3039 in its entirety.

Section 8. Section 12-3040 of the Raleigh City Code (PET SHOPS LICENSE; REQUIRED) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3040 in its entirety.

Section 9. Section 12-3041 of the Raleigh City Code (APPLICATION) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3041 in its entirety.

Section 10. Section 12-3042 of the Raleigh City Code (FEE; SEPARATE LICENSE FOR EACH FACILITY OPERATED) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3042 in its entirety.

Section 11. Section 12-3043 of the Raleigh City Code (KENNEL LICENSE; REQUIRED; EXEMPTION) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3043 in its entirety.

Section 12. Section 12-3044 of the Raleigh City Code (APPLICATION) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3044 in its entirety.

Section 13. Section 12-3045 of the Raleigh City Code (FEE) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3045 in its entirety.

Section 14. Section 12-3046 of the Raleigh City Code (ATTACK AND SECURITY DOG TRAINER’S LICENSE; REQUIRED) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3046 in its entirety.

Section 15. Section 12-3047 of the Raleigh City Code (APPLICATION) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3047 in its entirety.

Section 16. Section 12-3048 of the Raleigh City Code (FEE) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3048 in its entirety.

Section 17. Section 12-3049 of the Raleigh City Code (CATTERIES LICENSE; REQUIRED) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3049 in its entirety.

Section 18. Section 12-3050 of the Raleigh City Code (APPLICATION) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3050 in its entirety.

Section 19. Section 12-3051 of the Raleigh City Code (FEE) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3051 in its entirety.

Section 20. Section 12-3069 of the Raleigh City Code (FINES AND PENALTIES) is hereby amended by deleting subparagraph (c).

Section 21. Section 12-3071 of the Raleigh City Code (REFUSAL TO ISSUE LICENSE WHEN APPLICANT IN VIOLATION OF LAW) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3071 in its entirety.

Section 22. Section 12-3072 of the Raleigh City Code (REVOCATION OF HOLDING FACILITY LICENSES) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3072 in its entirety.

Section 23. Section 12-3073 of the Raleigh City Code (NOTICE OF AN APPEALS FROM DECISION OF AGENCIES) is hereby amended by deleting Section 12-3073 in its entirety.

Section 24. Section 12-3074 of the Raleigh City Code (UNAUTHORIZED USE OF LICENSE RECEIPTS OR INOCULATIONS CERTIFICATES) is hereby modified to read as follows:


It shall be unlawful for any person to use for any dog a rabies inoculation certificate issued to another person, dog, cat, or facility.”

Section 25. Part 12, Chapter 3, is hereby amended by adding a new article, ARTICLE F, to follow immediately after Section 12-3074, as modified (see above), and to read as follows:



(a) It shall be unlawful for any person, purposely or intentionally, to feed any wild or exotic animal, cause wild or exotic animals to be fed or to provide food to wild or exotic animals within the corporate limits of the City. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, disbursement of food on the ground, at a feeding station, in a feeding device, or in a container of any form. This Section shall not apply to:

i. baiting or feeding feral cats as part of a trap-neuter-release or return program; or

ii. the feeding of birds (songbirds or other backyard birds), providing the bird feeders are at least five (5) feet about the ground.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to purposely or intentionally leave or store any refuse, garbage, food product, pet food, forage product or supplement, salt, seed or birdseed, fruit, grain in a manner that would constitute an attractant to any wild or exotic animal.

(c) It shall be unlawful for any person to fail to take remedial action to avoid contact or conflict with wild or exotic animals, which may include the securing or removal of outdoor trash, cooking grills, pet food, bird feeders or any other similar food source or attractant after being advised by the City to undertake such remedial action. Failure to take remedial action after the initial notification will be a violation of this subsection and shall be enforced pursuant to subsection (d) of this Section.

(d) Penalties: Any person who violates this Section shall be subject to a civil penalty of one hundred dollars $100.00. Each day that a violation of this Section occurs or continues shall be considered a separate offense.


(a) Prohibited generally: It shall be unlawful for any person to harbor, possess, keep, maintain, or have under his control within the City any wild or exotic animal.

(b) Exemptions: The provisions in this Section shall not apply to the following: lawfully operated and located pet shops; zoos; scientific research laboratories; circuses; veterinarians harboring such animals for purposes of providing professional medical treatment; educational or scientific institutions (public and private) in the course of their educational or scientific work; wildlife agents in the course of the work for which they are approved by the Wildlife Resources Commission; or persons, corporations, institutions licensed or regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These exemptions apply only if the animals are maintained in a manner that complies with other applicable state and federal regulations and which prevents the animals’ escape.

(c) Impoundment: Any exotic or wild animal which is harbored, kept, or possessed by any person in violation of this Section may be taken and impounded by the animal control unit of the Police Department for the protection of the animal, the public or both.

(d) Penalties and Reimbursement: Any person who violates this Section shall be subject to a civil penalty of $500.00 per animal, as well as reimbursement to the City for all costs incurred while impounding, attempting to recapture, shelter, or euthanize in the event of an escaped wild or exotic animal. Each day of a continuing violation shall constitute a separate offense. A violation of this Section is also a misdemeanor and may also be enforced through injunctive or other equitable relief, or a combination of remedies.”

Section 26. All laws and clauses of laws in conflict herewith are hereby repealed to the extent of said conflict.

Section 27. If this ordinance or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the ordinance which can be given separate effect and to this end the provisions of this ordinance are declared to be severable.

Section 28. The provisions of this ordinance shall not affect any act heretofore done, any liability incurred, any right accrued or vested, or any suit or prosecution begun or cause of action accrued prior to the effective date of this ordinance, except as set forth in Section 30 of this ordinance.

Section 29. This ordinance shall be enforced as provided in N.C.G.S. 160A-175 or as provided in the Raleigh City Code. All criminal sanctions shall be the maximum allowed by law notwithstanding the fifty-dollar limit in G.S. 14-4(a) or similar limitations.

Section 30. This ordinance shall become effective immediately following its adoption. Except that any person who prior to the effective date of this ordinance possessed, kept or maintained within the City any wild or exotic animal shall have 90 days to comply with the provisions in Section 25 of this ordinance.

We Can Address the Housing Crisis

Photo by Gary Knight

Over the past month I have attended two Community Conversations regarding evictions in general and at properties on Garner Rd and Poole Rd specifically. These meetings have been well attended by County and City of Raleigh elected officials and staff as well as elected officials from surrounding communities. For example, at last night’s meeting we learned about a trailer park in Wake Forest where residents – many who own their “mobile” homes – are facing eviction because the owner of the land wants to redevelop the property.

The problems that many are facing are intractable under current state law. Five years ago and even a year ago, people were living in relative security. Now many are facing eviction with nowhere to go – particularly in Wake County.

Moving to another county is problematic. Many people do have jobs locally. However, those jobs don’t pay well enough to pay a mortgage or substantially higher rents in Raleigh or Wake. And leaving a job to relocate to rural North Carolina is difficult if not impossible.

Some will argue that we need to build more faster. However, construction is already happening at an unprecedented pace. In Raleigh alone, we have rezoned enough property in the last five years to allow 65,000 new units. However, only a fraction are in the pipeline to be built despite all the construction activity. Moreover, what is in the pipeline is not affordable.

What will happen to people? The Raleigh Housing Authority says there are thousands on their waiting list for affordable housing. Some non-profits that provide emergency housing have waitlists in the hundreds.

At our last Council meeting we changed zoning to allow construction of so-called missing middle housing. I voted against the change because I am concerned that it will worsen the current situation by encouraging more evictions to make way for more market rate property that those being evicted will not be able to afford. The change in zoning for missing middle provided no safeguards to protect existing affordable housing or to encourage new affordable housing. As Ken Bowers from the City’s Planning Department acknowledged, the intent of the zoning change was to allow more types of housing in desirable neighborhoods and does not address our affordable housing crisis.

Changes to state law are needed. One change would be to require the inclusion of affordable housing with the construction of large rental properties. We need to have a discussion about this. Every project that will bring 50 or more units should be required to provide at least 5 units that are affordable (in other words, 10%). This seems like a prudent and reasonable approach.

There are other changes that could also happen. For example, find alternatives like insurance to offset or replace deposits on apartments. Insist that tenants can use vouchers for rent payments. Ensure that background checks are reasonable in the kinds of information that can be obtained and for how far back in time they can be conducted. We should try to remove barriers to housing.

We should have a conversation about these and other ideas and look to State leaders for changes. Without changes at the State level we maintain a status quo that will lead to more evictions and hardship for many in obtaining a place to live in Raleigh and in Wake County.

TC-5-20 and the Elimination of Single Family Zoning

TC-5-20 is a Trojan horse that promises affordability but offers zero protections for existing affordability or guarantees of future affordability. Instead of affordability, TC-5-20 will, instead, guarantee the sprawl of high priced density that will lead to more stress on infrastructure, traffic congestion, gentrification, evictions, and loss of existing affordability.

I have discussed TC-5-20 with numerous people including Bob Mulder here tonight, a long-time Raleigh realtor and past Chairman of the Raleigh Planning Commission. Bob lives in the Brentwood neighborhood and is very familiar with the housing market in Brentwood and similar neighborhoods where there is naturally occurring affordable housing but are at risk of gentrification and dislocation. I agree with Bob and others that TC-5-20 will lead to market rate, significantly higher priced housing in older neighborhoods such as Brentwood where property is currently less expensive and affordable.

In April the Fayetteville Observer reported on the state legislature’s similar attempt to eliminate single family zoning noting that doing so will lead to greater density but not to affordable housing. The Observer quoted Scott Mooneyham of the North Carolina League of Municipalities representing 500 North Carolina municipalities saying “We think it’s basically an attempt to undermine local control and local decision-making in the guise of an affordable housing bill.”

Mooneyham pointed out that the bills in the legislature are backed by the North Carolina Home Builders Association that represents developers who in the last campaign cycle made significant donations to multiple sponsors of the proposed state legislation.

From the same article, a retired nurse, Norma Baynes, sees the proposed legislation as an existential threat to her community of Shiloh, a historically Black neighborhood of single-family homes in south Asheville. Knowing development had contributed to the displacement or destruction of Black communities in the past, Baynes, who serves as president of the Shiloh Community Association, resists any steps that might alter one of Asheville’s oldest communities.

Indeed, TC-5-20 will similarly encourage more tear downs in neighborhoods that are home to people of color leading to more and not less evictions and displacements. Seniors on fixed incomes and those without the financial resources simply will not be able to afford to live there as property values rapidly inflate.

Highlighting that legislation like TC-5-20 specifically targets older, low income neighborhoods and people of color, the state bill that is sponsored by the HBA exempts neighborhoods with home owners associations. Thus, while developers would get to gentrify older neighborhoods where people of color live, newer, wealthy neighborhoods would effectively be untouched. TC-5-20 discriminates in exactly the same manner as the proposed state legislation.

But, you don’t need an HOA to achieve discrimination. Wealthy neighborhoods without HOA protections will be untouched. The idea that developers will replace a duplex inside the beltline with an affordable duplex simply does not consider that the cost of the property, the cost of removing it, the cost of building new, and the desirability of the area that will result in a product that is well out of reach of those in need of affordable housing.

What will really happen is that developers will buy property in existing affordable, low cost neighborhoods and will replace that housing with market rate units and ultimately will force out thousands of Raleigh’s citizens. If you think this will not happen, then ask the residents who are facing eviction as we speak on Garner and Poole roads to make way for denser, market rate housing. Eviction and displacement of poor people is real and it is happening today in Raleigh.

Make no mistake. TC-5-20 provides zero protections for affordable housing and, especially, zero protections for the people currently living in affordable housing. Instead, TC-5-20 is a boon for the Home Builders Association and the developers they represent. For them TC-5-20 is money in the bank. But for many of Raleigh’s citizens it is misguided legislation that will encourage and lead to accelerated gentrification, evictions, and dislocations.

Rather than pro-gentrification legislation such as TC-5-20, let’s have real change by insisting on affordable units and limiting what is required of tenants in terms of minimum income requirements, deposit requirements, background checks, and vouchers. Let’s not be afraid of poor people but recognize them as citizens who play vital roles and enrich our city.