I had the opportunity tonight to listen in on a panel of municipal leaders here in Wake County, which reminded me why I am so glad to live in this area. So much smart! Each of them, including Stormie Forte from Raleigh City Council, Audra Killingsworth from Apex Town Council, and TJ Cawley, Mayor of Morrisville, and Rose Cornelious from Dorcas Ministries were on a panel discussing this tsunami of an issue.
What is the one issue that keeps a majority of folks here in our area up at night? The answer is consistently, being able to afford the homes they live in.
Back in 2014, I was a newly single mom with two young daughters and had been out of the market for over five years. I went back into a marketing role at an engineering firm and had a decent salary with benefits. I rented a two-bedroom apartment in Cary so that the girls had a nice bedroom of their own. I could BARELY make ends meet. Each paycheck just covered rent, utilities, food, gas, phone, and all the other necessities that pop up. Childcare became insurmountable, or if something broke on the car we were in trouble. I was extremely fortunate in that my parents were able to move to Cary to be near us to help with childcare. My family is extremely grateful to have their support. What if, like so many others in our community, I didn’t have that support?
My rent was $999 when I moved into that small two-bedroom apartment. It went up to $1,100/month by the time I moved. Fast forward to today, you would be lucky to get a two-bedroom in Cary for less than $1,700/month.
HUD publishes income limits for housing, “household size income limit is an important factor in determining a property’s compliance with state and federal regulations.” In order to receive a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit you must live within a specific MSA, ours is Raleigh, and make less than a certain amount per household. I took a look at Town of Cary staff salaries (salaries here) and saw that 97% of ToC staff fall below what is considered a low income and would qualify for this tax credit.
But it’s not just ToC staff, I’m including firefighters, nurses, waiters/waitresses at your favorite sushi joint, our police, and single moms/dads in our community. These folks can work here but can’t live here. This is an issue that is quite challenging for municipalities because the North Carolina General Assembly doesn’t give local government that many rights when it comes to inclusionary zoning, etc. We have Dillon’s rule in NC, which means if NC legislature doesn’t grant it, municipal government can’t do it. Local municipalities surrounding Cary have been making efforts towards a solution, including a penny tax in Apex that is a dedicated fund for affordable housing in their community. When I’m elected, I’ll work to make sure Cary is pushing on this issue, and finding the right mix of solutions for this housing tsunami. Diversity creates stronger communities. We have got to see that it is our responsibility as a community to take care of those who serve our community. Join the conversation, contact me to be a part of positive change for Cary.