Affordable housing is a hot button issue in places like eastern Wake County. Many people here, including elected officials in Wendell, say the region already has more than its fair share of affordable housing.
But the numbers don’t bear that out. According to county statistics, Wendell has the highest rate of affordable housing in Wake County with about 13 percent of the housing units classified as affordable housing units. That actually parallels the percentage of people in Wake County who would qualify for affordable housing. With the continued development of Wendell Falls and other residential developments around town, that percentage is actually likely to fall in the short term as more housing units are built which don’t qualify as affordable. New home developments in Knightdale and Zebulon are also likely to push the percentage of affordable housing down in those communities as well.
At the very least, it could be said Wendell is pulling its weight in the push for more affordable housing. It would not be correct to say Wendell has too much.
For the record affordable housing doesn’t necessarily mean public housing. It could mean privately-owned homes whose owners are willing to accept all or part of the rent payment from a government agency. Or it could mean privately owned homes where the property owners are willing to cap the amount they charge for rent.
Opponents of affordable housing argue that other municipalities in Wake County should share more of the burden. Indeed, Raleigh’s affordable housing stock accounts for only about 3 percent of its living units. The same can be said of Cary.
This is where supporters and opponents of affordable housing alike can make hay with their arguments. Percentages are mathematically contrived figures that really don’t mean much when the real issue is the number of people who need access to affordable housing compared to the number of affordable housing units which are actually available. One family needs one home. As a county, Wake is not meeting that ratio. And that’s where the rub is.
As Wake County leaders and affordable housing advocates huddle to figure out the best way to deal with this issue, one issue they need to consider is this: where do those people who qualify for affordable housing live now? As we look for places to focus affordable housing efforts, it makes the most sense to put it where the people who need it can access it. We don’t build shopping centers out in the middle of the country when most of the potential shoppers live in the city.
Opponents of affordable housing in eastern Wake County argue that construction of new affordable housing stock doesn’t help the tax base of a town. And, to be sure, the tax value of a $110,000 home isn’t as much as the tax value of a $400,000 home. But that’s a bit of a disingenous argument. Opponents of affordable housing aren’t truly concerned with filling the tax coffers of the town in which they live. They are more concerned with the neighbors who might move in down the street or around the block. That kind of elitist argument doesn’t go over well with most people, which is why they don’t make it.
But at the end of the day, what does matter is making sure all the people who call Wake County home – now and in the future – have decent homes they can pay for.