Why I Don’t Support Council’s $80 Million Housing Bond

Raleigh is a wealthy community that has seen tremendous growth for many years. In the past, Raleigh has grown outwards with new subdivisions being constructed year after year. Today Raleigh encompasses 144 square miles.

Today it has become more difficult for the City to continue to grow outwards. There are environmental impacts and it is becoming more difficult and costly to extend infrastructure such as water, sewer, and roads. As a consequence we are seeing the construction of more and more rental housing in the form of high-rise buildings.

But this is not, in general, affordable housing. The apartments at North Hills, and downtown near Fayetteville Street and along Peace Street as well as elsewhere in the City are marketed has high-end, luxury housing.

There is tremendous pressure to buy up older, affordable apartments and tear them down and replace them with new, more expensive options. People are being evicted to make this happen and those people are finding it nearly impossible to find a new place to live.

Generally, these displaced people are elderly or working class people who earn below the area median income (AMI). And their numbers are growing. In a diverse city, not everyone is highly educated with advanced degrees in high-tech fields. Today more than 16,000 spend more than 50% of their income on housing. The need is tremendous and growing.

So, when Raleigh City Council voted 7-1 to place a bond on the ballot to raise money for housing, why didn’t they make any significant commitment to truly affordable housing? Why didn’t they address the need that so many in our City face?

Instead, the City Council plans to build market rate and near market rate housing arguing that doing so will help to fund what will ultimately be a handful of “affordable” housing units. For example, in a recent memo explaining how the $80 million will be spent, the City staff states, “30% AMI units (for low wage earners) must be mixed with higher income targets.” In same memo, City staff recommended committing some of the money to only 50 units at 30% AMI or less.

Additionally, City staff recommends committing to 25% of 9% gap financing and 10% of 4% gap financing for 30% AMI. Given that a total of $24 million is allocated for this purpose, the City’s commitment to providing housing at 30% AMI will amount to about 100 units. However, Council did not commit to an actual number of dwellings.

So, of the $80 million that voters are being asked to support, perhaps two tenths of it will be used for affordable housing for those most in need. However, there is no actual commitment.

Early in 2020, the Mayor established a so called compassion fund with $20,000 to help the homeless. To date, not a dollar has been spent to help those in need. City government does not need to be in the business of funding market and near market rate rate housing while building only a small number of affordable housing units (assuming that will happen). Developers in Raleigh do not need a blank check from Raleigh taxpayers.

As a consequence, I do not support the City’s housing bond.

Ending Single Family Zoning: Your Opinion Matters

Fields marked with an * are required

Historically, Raleigh's zoning ordinance has allowed properties to be zoned only for single family home - in other words only single family homes can be constructed on those properties. In general, entire neighborhoods have been zoned only for single family homes.

Recently, on July 7th, City Council voted to end single family zoning. On July 7th Council voted to allow so-called "cottage courts" to be constructed on properties that were previously reserved for single family homes.

A "cottage court" is a type of multi-unit housing.  Under the new rules that were adopted, up to 30 units can now be built on property that had previously been reserved for single family homes.

Do you agree or disagree with this decision?

Update from City Council, July 2020

On Tuesday Council took several actions.

First, Council approved allowing Accessory Dwelling Units – you can now build a second habitable structure on your property that meets certain guidelines. In general, I supported this measure. However, Nicole Stewart made a motion to gut most guidelines.

These guidelines included setbacks, heights, and landscaping as well as a prohibition against using the structures as AirBnB type vacation rentals. I felt that these guidelines would provide sufficient safeguards to maintain the peace, quiet, and property values of nearby homeowners. But, without these important guidelines, I voted against the measure.

Second, Council approved doubling the number of units for cottage courts and allowing them in R-2 and R-4 residential zoning districts. Originally, cottage courts (essentially, multifamily units with a common building for facilities such as laundry, recreation, etc) were limited to 15 units and were not allowed in R-2 and R-4 residential zoning districts. Now that limit has been increased to 30 units. This change effectively ends single family zoning in Raleigh. I voted against this measure.

Third, Council passed a change to allow four story buildings to go from 62 feet in height to 68 feet in height and a five story building to go from 75 feet in height to 80 feet in height. My main concerns with this change is that these buildings can be constructed directly adjacent to residential neighborhoods. My opinion is that adjacent to neighborhoods, the height should actually be reduced. Moreover, taller buildings are less environmentally friendly. They are less energy efficient, increase carbon emissions, increase visual pollution, and are more costly to construct and therefore, are less affordable. I voted against this motion.

Fourth, I did support a motion to add Juneteenth as a holiday.

Fifth, I did support a motion to send a letter to the legislature asking for City Council to have more autonomy related oversight of the Police Department. The specifics of that autonomy remain to be determined by the legislature. Effectively, this moves the discussion of police oversight to the state legislature.

Lastly, Council held a public hearing on the $80 million affordable housing bond. At the conclusion of the hearing I noted that Council has not specified exactly how that money will be spent. I do favor an affordable housing bond that will provide real affordable housing. I do not support a blank check for developers. In the end, Council did not adopt any policy about how the $80 million will be spent. As a consequence, I voted against approving the affordable housing bond.

My Questions for Applicants for the District D Vacancy

The following are my questions for all who have applied for consideration to fill the vacancy on Raleigh City Council in District D.

Would you vote in favor of a City council resolution opposing the Wake Stone quarry? Why or why not?

Would you support taking legal action against the Wake Stone quarry?

What should be the City’s policy regarding how to spend the proposed affordable housing bond?

Do you support Neighborhood Overlay Conservation Districts? Why or why not?

Do you support Historic Overlay Districts? Why or Why not?

Would you vote to reinstate Citizens Advisory Councils?

Should City Council have held public meetings and invited public discussion before taking any action on Citizens Advisory Councils?

Have you attended CAC meetings? If so, what was your experience?

Do you support ending single family zoning districts? Why or why not?

Should Raleigh’s Police Advisory Board have subpoena power? Why or why not? If so, how should subpoena power be implemented?

Should Raleigh’s Police Advisory Board have disciplinary power? Why or why not? If so, how should disciplinary power be implemented?

What is your definition of democracy?

Should backyard cottages be used as AirBnB-style short term rentals? If so, will this help or hurt the availability of affordable housing?

Should public tax dollars be used to finance sports arenas? Why or why not?

Is gentrification good or bad for Raleigh? Why or why not?

Should Raleigh eliminate at-large Council members and go to all District Council members? Why or why not?

Should Raleigh increase the number of people on City Council as a way to increase and diversify representation? Why or why not?

Should Raleigh City Council go to four year terms? Why or why not?

Under what circumstances would you vote against a rezoning to increase density?

What does “protecting a neighborhood” mean to you?

What does “defund the police” mean to you? Do you support defunding the police based on your definition?

Moving Foward

Thank you to everyone who participated in the special meeting of City Council. And thank you to the countless numbers who are committed to change and bringing forward a better community and a better America.

It is great to be heard. It is greater when there is action.

One of the key areas of the City’s Strategic Plan is Organizational Excellence. For the past five years I have advocated for a city council committee focused on organizational excellence to review ALL of the city’s policies and procedures on an ongoing basis. I hope we take action to form that committee and begin that important work.

But we must do more. On Wednesday President Obama challenged all mayors, city councils, and police oversight boards to take a pledge to take the following actions:

1. REVIEW your police use of force policies.

2. ENGAGE your communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in your review.

3. REPORT the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback.

4. REFORM your community’s police use of force policies.

On Wednesday I personally took this pledge. I am committed to reviewing eight key policies as recommended by Campaign Zero.

And there is still more we can do. Let us bring back our citizen-led Citizens Advisory Councils where people could meet together and with the police. Since February we have lost 72 CAC meetings and 72 opportunities to engage with citizens. Eight of our CACs served southeast Raleigh and the Black community. Today we have nothing and we desperately need the voice of citizens.

And there is still more. I challenge our state legislature to take action. I challenge the legislature to make our state more equitable. To name a few, End gerrymandering, and all forms of discrimination that discourage and block people from voting. Treat ALL drug addiction as an illness rather than a crime. And, Allow cities the ability to require affordable housing.

Let us work together to end the disadvantages so many face simply because of the color of their skin.

Memorial Day 2020

It has been well reported that Adam Smith, one of the leaders of the ReOpen NC, Facebook group has posted a video stating that he is prepared for violence and murder to protect his rights. Presumably the violence and murder would be directed at duly elected officials. This is not acceptable and something that I condemn in no uncertain terms.

I am a 13th generation descendant of Edward Fuller. Edward and his brother Samuel signed the Mayflower Compact. While the Pilgrims certainly had their shortcomings, the Mayflower Compact was not one of them and marked an important milestone whereby people agreed to “bind ourselves together into a civil Body Politick” to which they promised “all due Submission and Obedience.”

On May 30, 1868 James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery at the first official Decoration Day. He said, in part,

“Peace, liberty, and personal security were blessings as common and universal as sunshine and showers and fruitful seasons; and all sprang from a single source, the old American principle that all owe due submission and obedience to the lawfully expressed will of the majority. This is not one of the doctrines of our political system—it is the system itself. It is our political firmament, in which all other truths are set, as stars in Heaven. It is the encasing air, the breath of the Nation’s life.”

Coming together peacefully in a system of government to enact laws that we willing live by is the hallmark of what we strive for. Or course, we Americans have not been able to achieve this at all times. But we continually renew our commitment to this goal every time we have an election and with every national celebration and observance. As Garfield said, it is the breath of our Nation’s life.

And, this is why today, on Memorial Day, we remember those who gave their lives for this Country.

Side note: at the time of his Decoration Day speech, Garfield was a Congressman from Ohio. He later became the 20th President serving from March 1881 until his assassination six and a half months later.

May 13 Community Meeting

I had previously announced my intention to hold a meeting on May 14. However, due to a scheduling conflict, I am moving it up a day to May 13.

On May 13 I will hold a virtual community meeting. There will be two sessions. The first session will begin at 7pm and the second session will begin at 8pm. Please feel free to attend one or both sessions.

This is the link for the 7pm Session:

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/77077940518?pwd=TzErTXZNTEM4YnhiQ3IxczVtSUlVZz09

This is the link for the 8pm Session:

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/72940694987?pwd=cllXdjJBS011UXBwcG9pUWw2RmJ6dz09

The format of the meeting will be a little different than the first. This will be primarily a listening session where you are encouraged to speak about issues that are of a concern to you. I will generally keep each person’s comments to a few minutes in order to allow as many people as possible to speak.

Look forward to seeing you again!

A Virtual Community Meeting

Here are the details for joining the virtual community meeting..

Time: Apr 30, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada). Simply click this link:

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/73337770783?pwd=ZWpXYkpwVk8vTWMxbjM3WXdiZVZBUT09

On Thursday, April 30th, I will host a virtual community meeting that will begin at 7pm.

I will be using Zoom. Anyone with a computer or mobile device should be able to join. I will update this post with a link to the meeting along with login instructions as we get closer to the meeting.

Because I will be using the free version of Zoom, the meeting will be limited to 100 attendees and will last about 40 minutes. I will see how this works out. If more than 100 people attempt to attend or more than 40 minutes is needed, I will consider other options for future meetings. Importantly, if you are unable to get into the meeting but have comments or questions on particular topics, please email me at david.cox@raleighnc.gov.

If you have questions that you would like to ask in advance of the meeting, please send me an email at david.cox@raleighnc.gov.

Antibody Testing for COVID-19

The FDA has approved four tests for COVID-19 antibodies. Here are links provided by the FDA for these tests.

Cellex – a lateral flow immunoassay for qualitative detection of antibodies (IgM and IgG) https://www.fda.gov/media/136625/download

Ortho Clinical Diagnostics- immunoassay using horseradish peroxidase labeled antigen luminescent reaction where the light emitted is correlated with the presence of antibodies. https://www.fda.gov/media/136967/download

Chembio Diagnostics Systems – a lateral flow immunoassay for qualitative detection of antibodies (IgM and IgG) https://www.fda.gov/media/136963/download

Mount Sinai laboratory https://www.fda.gov/media/137029/download