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The Voice of the Black Community

Opinion

Letter: Vote NO for the housing bond
 
Published Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Wake County Housing Justice Coalition recommends that voters in Raleigh reject City Council’s proposed $80 million housing bond, which is on the Nov. 3 election ballot. We do so in the conviction that the bond program, though labeled “affordable housing,” is intended primarily to assist moderate-income households instead of the low-income households who find themselves in a housing crisis.

Our analysis is that, of the $80 million to be spent, just $16 million is targeted to those with the greatest need for housing assistance, which, according to the city’s own Consolidated Housing Plan, are residents and households with incomes 30% or less of the Area Median Income* (AMI). The Plan states that 16,685 households in Raleigh with incomes of 30% AMI or below currently pay more than half their income in rent. This, above all, is the affordable housing crisis in Raleigh. Unfortunately, the bond program fails to address it.

Here are the facts:

* Raleigh currently spends about $9 million a year** to subsidize housing for moderate-income households, generally defined as having incomes up to 60% of AMI, and up to 80% in some cases. The money comes from the “Penny for Housing” property tax and annual Community Development Block Grant funding from Washington. None of it is bond money.

* Council’s proposal for the bond, if it passes, is that a substantial portion of the $80 million would also be used to assist moderate-income households. The exact figure is unknowable because Council has failed to establish clear policy directives.

* Low-income households benefit very little from current Raleigh housing programs; even so, just $16 million of the $80 million bond plan is specifically focused on low-income needs.

* Most of Raleigh’s spending to help moderate-income households takes the form of subsidies to developers building market-rate housing. The bond package would add to these subsidies.

We believe it is a failure of leadership, and a slap in the face of Raleigh’s stated efforts, to achieve equity in our programs, to expand help for those who have more while short-changing those who have less. Proponents of the bond, while conceding that it doesn’t do enough for those in the greatest need, argue that it is “better than nothing.” But is it? Raleigh’s last housing bond issue passed in 2011. If this one passes, we may not get another chance in this decade to pass a truly progressive bond package.

On the other hand, if this weak bond fails, City Council should go back to the drawing board immediately and put together a plan worth voting for in time for the 2021 elections —one that targets the needs of those earning 30% of AMI and below.

A progressive plan would include:

* Detailed policy commitments to aid low-income households and individuals

* Policy reforms to stem the ongoing gentrification of historically low-income black communities

* An oversight committee, with representation from impacted communities, to monitor spending for all city housing programs

Moderate-income households merit help. But they don’t merit the lion’s share of city funding while low-income folks go begging. The “better than nothing” attitude is not only NOT better, it’s what holds us back from doing what’s right. Regardless of how the bond referendum turns out, our Coalition is committed to stay in the fight for housing justice.

The Wake County Housing Justice Coalition

 

* Annual median income in the Raleigh-Cary metro is $94,100 a year for a family of four.

** Over the past five years, according to the city’s Department of Housing and Neighborhoods, data, Raleigh spent some $46 million to subsidize the construction of 2,809 apartment units. Of the total, 2,390 units were targeted at the moderate-income range (60-70% AMI). Just 87 units were intended to be affordable by our lowest-income families (30% AMI or less).

 

 

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