It’s good news of a kind to learn that the Winston-Salem City Council has decided to invest in much-needed affordable housing. The council, supporting a bid from Mayor Allen Joines, approved spending $30 million to create affordable housing in the city, the Journal’s Wesley Young reported Tuesday.
There’s not yet a specific plan or site, just the financing, which consists of $10 million from the N.C. General Assembly and $20 million from the city’s general fund. The city does expect, though, to be able to build 750 affordable units.
This early funding commitment provides city planners an opportunity to look for the thriftiest options — and local residents, we hope, opportunities to weigh in. Using general fund money rather than, say, money provided by the American Rescue Plan, allows the city more flexibility in how and when the money is spent, the Journal reported.
There’s a possibility that some of the housing money will go to the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem to help fill a funding gap for a redevelopment project centered on Cleveland Avenue Homes.
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However the city allots the funds, these developments won’t provide all the affordable housing needed in Winston-Salem — but every little bit helps. Not everyone — certainly not every working person — can afford one of the luxury apartments springing up around town.
We wonder who will live in all of those units.
We’d prefer to see housing provided by private developers who want to produce a quality product at a low price.
Unfortunately, the primary driver in construction, as in anything else, is profit, and there’s much more of that to be had in expensive, high-end housing. That leaves a shortage of options for lower-income families.
So we welcome the city’s involvement.
It won’t be easy, though. The decision comes as our economy continues to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, as well as inflation that has had a dramatic effect on lumber and other construction materials. Any housing will be much more expensive to construct now than even five years ago.
But those prices aren’t likely to come down anytime soon, and families need places to live — places to eat, sleep, study and recreate.
Affordable housing is a national problem, and one that’s been growing for some time. It doesn’t help that some investors have decided that housing is the next big market to gouge, as The New York Times reports has happened with mobile home parks, which house about 22 million Americans. New owners sometimes increase plot rents by 50% or more, which can strain — and bust — the budgets of low-income workers. Though salaries overall have risen over the last year, much of that advantage has been eliminated by inflation.
This also isn’t helped by the trend of corporations and hedge funds to buy family dwelling units — houses — to use as high-end rental properties. That may turn a profit, but it keeps home ownership — one of the best investments a family can make, as well as a neighborhood stabilizer — a step away from realization.
In the midst of these actions, we’re encouraged to learn that construction will soon begin on what will be called Metropolitan Village, a modern apartment complex that is intended to provide mixed-income housing, retail spaces, health-related services and other amenities to East Winston, on property that stretches between Fifth and Third streets close to U.S. 52. The site plan calls for a total of 325 units, the Journal reported, including some townhouses.
It’s a project organized by United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, working in conjunction with Charlotte-based developers Liberty Atlantic. And it’s part of the larger East End Master Plan, a city effort designed not only to provide housing, but to bridge some of the gaps between city residents exacerbated by U.S. 52. The new development should help connect East Winston to the Innovation Quarter on the west side of the highway.
The Rev. Alvin T. Armstead Jr., the church’s pastor, said the partnership with the developer shows the church is “committed to transforming East End into a thriving and healthy community that embraces the rich culture and history of East Winston.”
Joines called the complex “a transformative project and … a long-deserved investment in East Winston.”
The partnership may well provide not only housing, but a viable housing model that can be used elsewhere in the city. Developers, watch how it works.