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Raleigh OKs money for affordable housing at Sir Walter and at Southeast Raleigh site

The Sir Walter building in downtown Raleigh.
The Sir Walter building in downtown Raleigh. cseward@newsobserver.com

After an initial two week delay, Raleigh leaders voted to move forward with funding for two affordable housing projects, one in downtown and another in Southeast Raleigh.

The two projects approved Tuesday involved city funding to keep the Sir Walter Apartments in downtown Raleigh as affordable housing for the elderly and to put affordable housing at the site of a joint YMCA and elementary school in Southeast Raleigh.

Raleigh Council member Dickie Thompson originally made the motion to delay funding the two projects because of the cost-per-unit. Thompson wasn't at Tuesday's meeting, but he did have a statement read by Mayor Nancy McFarlane.

"As elected officials, it is our fiduciary responsibility to ask questions regarding the use of taxpayers money to ensure that it is being spent in the most impactful manner," Thompson's statement said. "Both of these projects were pulled due to the fact that their cost per unit was so much higher than the other projects that had been presented to us."

City council approved $3 million in city funds for 158 affordable housing units at the Sir Walter Apartments, at 400 Fayetteville St., and $4.6 million for 120 affordable units, off of Rock Quarry Road, for the Beacon Ridge project.

Advocates worried that the end of federal affordable housing requirements, coupled with the owners' intention of selling the downtown Raleigh property, would mean the city would lose 140 affordable housing units. At least one buyer expressed interest in converting the property into a hotel, offices or apartments, but that fell through in late 2017.

"I had hoped that we could provide these (Sir Walter) residents a more desirable place to live which would include larger units, ample green space and closer proximity to grocery stores," Thompson's statement said. "However, I have been informed by city staff that there would be no other place available for these residents to relocate due to the short remaining current lease period at the Sir Walter. I do not want to take the risk of not having a suitable place for these folks to live."

The plan for the Beacon Ridge site will include a new YMCA and elementary school, as well as commercial and retail space focused on healthcare and access to healthy food and affordable housing.

In total, Raleigh leaders approved a little more than $19 million to create nearly 1,100 affordable housing units across the city. A majority of the funds came from the 1 cent of the city's property tax rate that has been dedicated toward affordable housing and meeting Raleigh's goal of adding 5,700 affordable housing units.

Anna Johnson; 919-829-4807; @anna_m_johnson

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