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.