New, affordable-housing developments funded in part by
the 2016 housing bond are aimed at curtailing the problem of unaffordable
rentals in the city.

More than a third of housing units in Greensboro were
considered unaffordable in 2014, with most of those units categorized as
rentals. Recent developments out of the 2016 housing bond are aimed at curtailing
the problem.

Ryan Ridge Apartments, which opened about a month ago, is
the city’s first multi-family housing project funded by the 2016 housing bond
and low-income housing tax credits. Located at 4410-4412 Rehobeth Church Road,
the 60-unit complex includes one, two and three-bedroom units.

“This is one of the cheapest places I could find,” said
Jerome Malloy, a 20-year old living in a one-bedroom apartment at Ryan Ridge.
“Other places were over $600.”

Malloy, who works full-time for a company making airplane
parts, says he didn’t have help from family and that this is his first time
living on his own. He moved in a few weeks ago and said so far, he likes it.

“Everything is new,” he said. “Everything looks nice inside.
Everybody seems nice; it’s quaint.”

According to the city, the total cost of the project was
$8.05 million, with $880,000 coming from the 2016 bond. In addition to Ryan
Ridge, two more affordable-housing projects will be completed by the end of
2020 using the $3 million allocated from the housing bond for multi-family
affordable-housing development. Printworks Lofts, which will be located at 1700
Fairview St., will convert an old mill into 217 family apartments, while
Elmsley Trail, which will be located at 518 Kallamdale Road, will consist of 60
units.

As of Oct. 17, 41 of the 60 apartment units at Ryan Ridge
had been filled. The rent for a 967-square foot one-bedroom apartment at Ryan
Ridge is $525 per month while two-bedroom units range from $545 to $620. The three-bedrooms
cost between $615 and $705. The complex operators have also chosen to restrict
applicants based on their maximum and minimum income. For example, for a family
of one, the maximum income that person can make and be allowed to live there is
$25,800 per year. With each additional family member, that number goes up
slightly. Likewise, there is a minimum income as well, which is calculated as
2.5 times the monthly rent times 12 months. These limits are set by the North
Carolina Housing Finance Agency, a public agency that finances affordable
housing in the state.

And while the cost may seem high to some, the starting rent
of $525 for a one-bedroom apartment is significantly lower than the current
average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Greensboro, which costs $789 per
month according to Rainmaker Insights, a rental market databases company.

“We want to make sure that the people moving in don’t have to pick between rent and groceries,” said Ally Kalaczuk, the property manager at Ryan Ridge.

Equipped with brand new Energy Star appliances, a laundry
facility, a playground, fitness center and business center, Ryan Ridge is
indistinguishable from any other apartment complex. In fact, because they’re
new, the apartments look like they are in better condition than some of the older,
more costly apartments available in the city. And quality housing specifically
for lower-income families and individuals has been a need for the city for
years, according to UNCG professor Keith Debbage.

Debbage, who teaches in the geography and sustainable
tourism and hospitality department at the university, said he was stunned at
the need for affordable housing when he completed a report on the topic back in
2016.

Asked to put together a paper by the city, Debbage initially
didn’t think there was a great need for affordable housing in the community but
was proven wrong after digging into data from the American Community survey.

“I was stunned at how deep the problem was,” Debbage said. “Especially in the rental sector. There were far too many cost-burdened units in the rental market and that was growing.”

Debbage said that at the time he completed his report in
April 2016, there were more than 40,000 cost-burdened — categorized as when 30
percent or more of a person’s income is spent on housing — units in the city.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years,” he said. “It really shocked
me, and I should have known. I was kind of disappointed in myself.”

A few months later, in October 2016, the housing bond was
passed, allowing the city to borrow up to $25 million for housing projects.

Of the 60 units at Ryan Ridge, only six are one-bedroom
apartments. Thirty of them are two-bedrooms and 24 are three-bedroom units

According to Kalaczuk, there is a greater need for
one-bedroom apartments in affordable housing communities.

“There are single elderly people, single parents, young single people,” she said. “There’s a really, really high demand for one-bedroom apartments but nowhere near the market that they need.”

Debbage noted that the advantages of affordable housing are
countless.

“It’s crucial for the health of the community,” he said.

“For educational achievement, for mitigating foreclosures, for creating a vested interest in the community. And then it’s more opportunity for upward mobility.”

He also said that the creation of communities like Ryan
Ridge will help fill the gap of affordable rental housing in the city but that more
apartments are needed to even put a dent in the problem.

“We’re making some headway in that regard,” he said. “But 60
units isn’t going to move the needle drastically. We need scale and speed. We
have the bond, but the sense of urgency is not quite what it should be.”

Debbage recommended creating a community trust fund with
money from the bond that would be used to continue building affordable housing
units like Ryan Ridge.

“Lots of communities have done this,” he said, pointing to
cities similar in size and structure to Greensboro, like Louisville, Ky. “It
sure would be nice to see the pretty wealthy foundations in the community contributing
to something like this. It all comes down to the money. You’ve got to have a
stable investment fund.”

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