Featured photo: Photo by Steffen Coonan (stock photo)
Like many other cities nationwide, Greensboro is struggling to keep its head above water as the waves of the housing affordability crisis swell.
Rent has increased dramatically in recent years and has become unaffordable for many Americans; according to data from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, North Carolinians need to earn $21.54 an hour in order to afford a two-bedroom rental without paying more than 30 percent of their income:
Eviction rates are on the rise, particularly in the South. Guilford County has the fourth-highest percentage of eviction filings per total number of renters across the 100 counties in North Carolina with a 14 percent eviction rate. In 2022, Rent.com published a report that listed Greensboro as the top city in the country with the biggest increase in rent for one-bedroom apartments over the previous year.
And the city’s unhoused population is growing.
Point-in-Time (PIT) counts are an annual activity conducted by cities all across the country. Last year, volunteers counted 34 unsheltered people in Guilford County. This year, the county’s PIT count started on Wednesday evening. According to the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Development (HND) Director Michelle Kennedy, they counted 244 by Thursday morning.
And PIT counts can be “notoriously” undercounted, Kennedy said.
“When you look at a jump like that, that should tell you what we’re seeing from a people-experiencing-homelessness standpoint in our community and how really deep those kinds of issues have become,” Kennedy said.
What is Greensboro doing to combat these issues?
At a city council work session on Thursday, Housing and Neighborhood Development Assistant Director Cynthia Blue said that close to 800 affordable units have either been built or are in production since the 10-year Housing GSO plan was implemented in 2020.
Money is flowing in, too. The Greensboro Housing Loan Fund, a public-private partnership, is officially up and running. It’s raised $21 million so far with a targeted goal of $32.5 million. The loans are aimed at for-profit and nonprofit developers of local, multifamily structures.
Greensboro City Council committed $5 million of these dollars from the 2022 housing bond funds.
Other developments are being planned.
Blue said that the city may explore a Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant, a program that seeks to transform “distressed neighborhoods and public housing” into “mixed-income neighborhoods” that link housing to services and jobs. Winston-Salem has begun a $750 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative project that will bring 406 units to the community.
Additionally, 16 units of affordable housing for homeless households will be built in a new development called Oakwood Park, thanks to funding from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. The agency awarded Greensboro’s Affordable Housing Management Inc. $2.6 million in state HOME-ARP funds to develop this project. Construction will begin early this summer and the project is slated to be completed in 12 months. The two-story development off of West Vandalia Road will consist of one, two and three bedroom apartment homes. Rent for all units is aimed at households at or below 30 percent and 50 percent of area median income.
Still, in order to get people housed, Greensboro must keep swimming against the ever-raging tide of affordability and housing stock problems. “It’s not going to go away, it’s not going to go away quickly. We have to do something about it,” Councilmember Hugh Holston said. “I’m counting on your team to help us get through,” he told Kennedy and Blue.
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