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Affordable housing is a complex issue tied to zoning ordinances, redlining, highway construction, public transportation and much more. Mayor Joines has set a goal of building 750 units of affordable housing each year, though we are far from reaching that goal. Population pressures will make this worse, and our most vulnerable residents will be pushed out of stable housing if we don’t act decisively.

There have been several studies completed over the past 5 years and the city has made some important investments in housing. Winston-Salem has both a lack of affordable housing and a need to improve existing affordable housing options.

This short post can not go into all the nuance required of a complete discussion on affordable housing. Instead, here are a few ideas that Adrian would like to work on with City Council:

  • Create an Affordable Housing Loan Fund, managed by the city. The city would invest in this fund alongside banks’ Community Reinvestment Act Funds. This would establish an ongoing loan fund for the sole purpose of building affordable housing in Winston-Salem. It would also solve for the appraisal gap often found in affordable housing development. Because housing is often built in low-income neighborhoods, the comps used by banks to assess the finished value of the building are often low. This means the building would be underwater once complete, so the bank won’t approve the loan. A city-managed loan fund could use completely different underwriting standards to bypass this issue.
  • Winston-Salem could create a land banking department that acquires, manages, upfits, and sells vacant lots.
  • Sell vacant lots to Community Development Corporations and developers to build affordable housing units on. Install water/sewer if not already present. The city recoups these costs through property taxes.
  • Open up zoning so it is easier to build multi-family housing and ADUs.
  • Limit the number of rental units that owners who don’t live in Winston-Salem can own.
  • Dedicate city employees to help low income homeowners take advantage of free weatherization programs offered by the US government.

Resources:

EXPLORING EQUITABLE, EFFECTIVE, AND EFFICIENT SOLUTIONS TO VACANCY AND ABANDONMENT IN WINSTON SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA – Center for Community Progress, 2018

Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Housing Study and Needs Assessment – Enterprise Community Partners, 2018

Winston-Salem Land Banking and Lasting Affordability Action Plan – Grounded Solutions Network, 2019

Winston-Salem Anti-Displacement and Inclusive Growth Policy Agenda – Grounded Solutions Network, 2019

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Adrian Smith