Editorials

Wake County should expand housing for the homeless

Dan, center, and Harry Walker deliver supplies to a homeless camp in Raleigh with The Church In The Woods, a Christian charitable organization supporting those in the local homeless community. Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria is pushing for more housing for the homeless. (Photo by Ray Black III
Dan, center, and Harry Walker deliver supplies to a homeless camp in Raleigh with The Church In The Woods, a Christian charitable organization supporting those in the local homeless community. Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria is pushing for more housing for the homeless. (Photo by Ray Black III Ray Black III

Wake County’s Housing Voucher Program is a good but underused service. Commissioner Matt Calabria is due credit for trying to draw more attention to it, but more landlords are going to have to participate – and one day, the county might have to move directly into the business of building affordable apartment complexes.

The program is aimed at helping the homeless and disabled, and a quarter of the people on the waiting list are veterans – a group with a substantial homeless population. The county agrees to subsidize and guarantee rent payments – those homeless and disabled with incomes have to pledge a minimum amount to pay themselves – to landlords. But it needs landlords to participate, which will mean for some lowering normal rent rates. That’s not attractive to them right now, because the rental market is hot.

Calabria is trying to stir interest, and this is an admirable thing for a first-term, young commissioner to do. But ultimately, the county may have to consider building its own units. There’s a critical need for lower-income housing, after all, and giving the increases in the number of older people on fixed and fairly low incomes and the already existing need, there is likely to be more of a shortage of affordable housing in the future.

Housing is simply a basic need. Having citizens on the streets is simply not acceptable. Wake can help. Wake should help. Wake must help.

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