Julian Castro, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, praised local leaders Tuesday during a visit to Raleigh for making affordable housing a priority, and he urged local government to do more.
Castro, who also planned to visit Wilson on Tuesday, took a tour of Capitol Park, which is north of William Peace University in downtown Raleigh. The Raleigh Housing Authority revamped the area formerly known as Halifax Court in 2004 into a mixed-income community with a day care and other amenities.
After Castro met with Capitol Park residents privately, he held a press conference to praise the Raleigh Housing Authority’s “innovative” use of $29.4 million in federal funds through the HUD HOPE VI grant to develop the community.
HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs created the grant in 1993 to eradicate severely distressed housing by improving infrastructure and local management.
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“The need for this type of affordable housing is much greater than the supply right now,” Castro said. “My hope is that communities like this will show others why we need to invest in more affordable housing opportunities.”
Castro’s visit comes as the Wake County Board of Commissioners and Raleigh City Council are taking steps to create more affordable housing.
As Wake continues to grow, it is becoming a more expensive place to live, and land for housing projects is becoming harder to find.
The College Park and South Park neighborhoods near downtown Raleigh are central to the city’s affordable housing efforts. But revitalization plans in the historic areas have drawn concerns from some residents who worry about being displaced.
The City Council earlier this year effectively raised the property tax rate by one cent, creating $5.7 million in revenue that will go toward an additional 125 affordable housing units. The city already had planned to build 200 units in the coming years.
Last month, the Wake commissioners announced a new committee that will address affordable housing needs. Commissioner Jessica Holmes also said she wants the county to use land next to schools that the Wake County school system owns but hasn’t built on for new affordable housing projects.
For residents who live in Capitol Park, Castro said the project “has been a stabilizing influence in their lives.” “They enjoy the quality of life, they feel safe, and that’s what we want to hear.”
Castro also met with U.S. Rep. David Price, ranking Democrat on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, Wake commissioners’ Chairman James West and Raleigh Housing Authority director Wayne Felton.
Castro, once considered a potential running mate for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, said Raleigh faces the challenge in the coming years of trying to address the needs of seniors and young adults.
“When you look at a community like Raleigh, what I think about is a young population with students that has particular needs ... and then also you have a challenge throughout the United States of a baby boomer generation that’s now retiring and you have a need for more senior housing,” he said. “Here, that may well be especially pronounced.”