Raleigh, N.C. — Raleigh is rezoning city-owned land around Eliza Pool Park off Fayetteville Street to build a new affordable housing complex.
The need for affordable housing near downtown was identified by local officials as part of the Dix Edge Area Study. The study, which began in July 2020, focuses on “presenting draft recommendations on affordable housing, land use, the future of Lake Wheeler Road in front of Dix Park and South Saunders Street north of Interstate 40,” according to Raleigh’s website.
Neighborhoods south of downtown Raleigh are feeling the pressure of new developments moving into the area, so the city wants to make sure there is enough affordable housing to keep residents afloat.
“Taxes are going to go up, rents are going to go up,” said Mel Wright, a community leader for Dix Edge. “That’s just taking people out of a community that needs to be here.”
Many people are concerned that they won’t be able to afford to live in Raleigh in the next couple years, Wright said. He wants to make sure the city doesn’t let that happen.
“It’s just all about making people feel safe, making people feel wanted,” he said. “If you don’t feel wanted, and it doesn’t feel like your community anymore, then what’s the point of it?”
Who qualifies for affordable housing?
The definition of affordable, Wright said, can mean something different for everyone. The average price of rent in Raleigh is $1,510, according to RentCafe. About half of all residents in Raleigh are renting, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Data shows a household would need to make around $60,000 each year to afford most two-bedroom, two-bath apartments in Raleigh.
The city says if you make 80% or below the area’s median income, you qualify for affordable housing.
To rent a property with the city of Raleigh, one person cannot make more than $53,600 a year. To rent an affordable housing apartment unit in the city, one’s income cannot exceed $40,200.
For families, that income threshold rises. For example, families of four are eligible to rent an affordable apartment through the city if they make less than $57,450.
Jennifer Truman, who lives in the Dix Edge Area, said her growing family moved to southwest Raleigh six years ago.
She said the area has been neglected for decades.
“There’s a lot of need for that change that’s been pent up,” she said. “We need affordable housing. We need to preserve what’s here, which might be possible, but we also need to build more.”
According to a report from ApartmentList, rent prices in Raleigh have risen by 20.91% in the past year alone.
“Everyone is looking at our part of town as being a place of opportunity again, which is good, but it does come with a little bit of fear about how expensive it’s going to be,” she said.
Truman believes the city should build more affordable housing because the city has better control of how permanent that housing will be. She says that will serve people who have lived in Raleigh a long time as well as future residents.
City searching for a developer to create low-income housing
Once the land is rezoned, the city will look for a developer to build the units using low-income housing tax credits to subsidize construction or leasing the land on a long-term basis to guarantee affordability, according to Matthew Klem, senior planner for the city of Raleigh.
“We’ll do a lease to develop that property for 30, or 60 years, or whatever the term may be, and that guarantees the units on that property stay affordable for that length of time,” Klem said.
That way, he said, the housing stays affordable for a long period of time.
The tax credits that go to the developers will be financed through the federal government, he explained
“Most properties are zoned for detached single family housing, duplexes or townhouses, and to build anything else you have to rezone the property,” Klem said. It takes around four to six months on average to rezone the land, he said.
The rezonings are expected to add nearly 400 affordable housing units, according to city officials. The city is also planning on rezoning several lots on the corner of Cabarrus and East Streets in downtown Raleigh.
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