It’s time to fund affordable housing in Cary

By Amanda Murphy and Carissa Johnson

Many of the people we depend on, work with, and care about each day cannot afford to live in Cary. Instead, essential workers in healthcare, education, public safety, construction, retail, and trades drive from distant towns to provide the day-to-day services that keep our town running. Others also struggle to live in Cary, including senior citizens, low-income families, and graduates new to the workforce.

While the housing market in the Triangle is booming, it’s making life harder for modest-income families and individuals to live where they work. It’s time for change. It’s time for affordable housing in Cary.

Many families spend far more than 30% of their income on housing costs, causing financial hardship.  And when housing cost is a barrier, it can hurt local economies by leaving jobs unfilled and making it difficult to attract new employers. Affordable housing, on the other hand, helps drive economic growth and local purchasing power. It creates jobs, increases job retention, builds more resilient and diverse communities, and provides opportunities for the next generation. Affordable housing is good for the whole community.

To help us understand the potential, the Town of Cary hosted a virtual neighborhood rezoning informational meeting on January 12 for a mixed-income development on SE Maynard Road. Laurel Street, LLC, a mixed-income developer, is the contractor and attended this meeting along with Town staff. Laurel Street will not be using low-income tax credits to pay for the housing, this is financed differently, but is similar to a successful project completed in Winston Salem. The project would be limited to five stories with a greenway through the property potentially connecting to Dunham Park, from Ryan to Maynard Road. The development will have lots of amenities and be built to a green standard, which one will be the town’s decision as they maintain ownership.

Of course, citizens have voiced concerns, but much of the feedback we’re already heard on the proposed development is positive. Citizens we’ve talked to, community leaders, and commenters on Facebook believe all working families should be able to find a well-built, safe, and affordable place to live. A Cary realtor we spoke with, Tim Devinney of New Native Realty, mentioned he is, “committed to fair and affordable housing. I would say that the current market is not sustainable, in my opinion. That is based on how very difficult it is for first-time homebuyers to compete. Affordable housing is really a math problem. Do you like to eat out? Those workers get paid about $12/hour. If they worked full time that would be $1,920 per month before taxes. A one-bedroom rental in Cary is about $1,500/month. If you spend more than 30% of your gross salary on housing costs, you are considered housing cost-burdened. How would they make a car payment, buy food for their family, or cover any other expenses like heat, utilities?”

As stakeholders, candidates, and Cary residents, we have had numerous conversations with people in Cary about the affordable housing crisis and how it should be addressed in Cary – and lately about the Maynard Road mixed-income project in particular. There are occasional concerns about impacts to traffic, trees, the environment, and lower-income neighbors, but the vast majority voice their support for projects such as this mixed-income project proposed near walkable downtown Cary. There is strong YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) support for affordable housing in Cary!

Cary’s Council adopted a new Housing Plan for 2022 late last year and now the hard work begins to build capacity and to fund that plan. The SE Maynard Road development is a growth opportunity, and it deserves leader and citizen support to ensure we have a community where all can live and thrive.

Carissa Johnson had a chance to walk the lot where the housing will be placed, take a look at these photos and see if you agree, this is a perfect spot for some mixed-income affordable housing: https://photos.app.goo.gl/rtimmDjBreCCMQHEA

More Information on 21-REZ-18 921 SE Maynard Multi-family Rezoning, Case Manager: Heather Whelehan, Planner I, 919-380-4267

Amanda Murphy is a Council Candidate for District C, Cary

Amanda Murphy, Cary, NC, electamandabmurphy@gmail.com

For more information, https://electamandamurphy.com/

Carissa Johnson is a Council Candidate for At-Large, Cary

Carissa Johnson, Cary, NC, electcarissajohnson@gmail.com 

For more information, https://electcarissa.com/

About Laurel Street LLC

As a leading mixed-income developer, Laurel Street builds high-quality communities that will endure through the years as desirable places to live.

We believe all working families deserve a quality, affordable and safe place to live that they call home. Communities should be well-designed, foster connections to neighbors and the surrounding area, and provide reasonable access to the necessities of life such as transportation, employment, education, shopping and recreation.

We work with communities throughout the East Coast to create custom solutions that meet their needs. For more information, https://laurelstreetres.com/

Published by Amanda Murphy

I have been in the Triangle my entire career. I started out working alongside people who are now leaders of municipalities, heads of industry, and decision makers in their fields. My network is strong. After work I’m typically raising two of the most creative, amazing kids I know. I also am a bit of a health enthusiast; biking and swimming are my favorites. I love reading stories, and coffee, lots of coffee.

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