High Point council turns down affordable housing project

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High Point City Council turned down a request for financial assistance from a private developer to build affordable housing on the north side of High Point.

Led by Mayor Bernita Sims and Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall and Councilman Britt Moore, the council turned down a request from Wynnefield Properties for $1.4 million to assist in the construction of an 84-unit multifamily development near the intersection of Hartley Drive and Ingleside Drive. The vote took place in a finance committee meeting, whose membership includes the entire council, this afternoon.

Sims said that while she supports affordable housing, she objects to building affordable housing outside of the core city, noting that public transportation doesn’t run out to the proposed location and is concerned about gentrification in the core city.

“I’m committed to low- and moderate-income housing, but I’m also committed to the development of the core city,” the mayor said.

Hartley DriveCraig Stone, the president of Wynnefield Properties, said his company would need access to federal funds to apply for low-income housing tax credits through the state Housing Finance Agency. To meet the deadline for the application the developer would have needed a commitment letter from the city by May 16, so today’s decision effectively killed the project.

“The problem is that none do the sites will qualify with the housing finance agency,” Stone said. “There was not another site — a core city site — that would qualify.”

Stone and High Point Community Development & Housing Director Mike McNair said the state Housing Finance Agency approves only one project in each county per year for low-income housing tax credits. McNair added that “the competition is fierce.” He said the city will have another opportunity next year to allocate federal funds for an affordable housing project and compete for the tax credit.

Moore praised Wynnefield Properties’ work on other affordable housing projects, but said he agreed with the mayor that the proposed site is problematic.

McNair debated Sims on the relative merits of siting new affordable housing in the core city versus outlying areas. One of the attractions of the [Hartley Drive] site is proximity to food.”

Citing the large number of vehicles at public housing communities, he suggested that many of the residents of the proposed community wouldn’t rely on public transportation.

McNair noted that the Leonard Street area in the core city, where a significant share of affordable housing is currently located, is in “the third most distressed Census tract in the state.”

“It’s a racially concentrated area of poverty,” he said. “You tend to want to go more mainstream, so you’re not warehousing people.”