Affordable Housing Task Force Members get to work

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By C. Duncan Pardo – September 24, 2008

The Affordable Housing Task Force had its second meeting yesterday afternoon. City council created the 23-member task force to bring perspective on affordable housing and what’s being called “workforce housing” to the comprehensive plan process. The task force is set to deliver a report to council in February and the comprehensive plan should be ready for review next summer.

City planners expect Raleigh to grow by 70 percent over the next 20 years. The comprehensive plan is supposed to lay out what Raleigh will look like in 2030, from public transit to schools to high-rise office space.

The task force only has four meetings before members are scheduled to approve a report for council. Chair Jeanne Tedrow said the task force’s mission is to “take some time to deliberate on very serious issues” facing Raleigh. But, she acknowledged, they’re on a “tight time table.”

The issues members are to deliberate on are supply and preservation of affordable housing. “Affordable” is defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as housing for people who earn 80 percent of the median income spending no more than 30 percent of gross income on rent or mortgage.

According to the Census Bureau’s 2004 data, 80 percent of Wake County’s median income is about $46,000. That would put affordable rent or mortgage payments, including utilities, at just over $1,100. Many people in Raleigh make less than $46,000 a year, and that’s who task force members say they’re concerned about.

The term “workforce housing” is less defined. City staffer Shawn McNamara quoted Wikipedia’s definition in the meeting and suggested task force members create their own definition. Wikipedia says workforce housing is defined by affordable single-family homes, proximity to jobs and availability for “critical workforce” such as police, teachers and office workers.

Home price changes by zip code. Click for the full image. Graphic courtesy of the City of Raleigh.

Housing prices are on the rise across the city, with the exception of two Raleigh zip codes. Around downtown, for example, housing prices are up 8 percent in the 27603 zip code to 79 percent in the 27601 zip code. Open the graphic above for more information.

Task force members seemed a little nervous to speak up at the opening of their second meeting, but became more comfortable sitting around the table as they worked their way through the agenda. The task force split up into three committees to study some of the issues around increasing supply and preserving existing affordable housing. The next task force meeting is October 28.

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