Name as it appears on the ballot: Corey Branch
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.CoreyBranch.com
Occupation & employer: Network Engineer Manager – Kyndryl
Years lived in Raleigh: 44
1. Given the direction of Raleigh government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, what specific changes will you advocate for if elected?
Raleigh is facing unseen growth and the current Raleigh government is on the right course overall. We are working on ways to address our housing affordability challenges and working on implementation of a transit plan to reduce the need to own a personal vehicle. There is recognition of income gaps, so the council is looking at ways to help small businesses, increase skill development of our young people, and focus to improve our infrastructure.
2. If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identify your priorities for your district. If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces.
As a candidate for District C, I will continue to develop economic opportunities including more grocery stores. I will emphasize an increase in opportunity for our young people to deliver their skills and continue to work on housing affordability. Residents in Southeast Raleigh the district want to be able to shop and sit down for a meal in a restaurant within the district. We also have to ensure our senior on fixed-income like my own parents, can continue to afford to remain in their homes. These items have no single fix and I will continue to address these items through the lens of equity and accessibility.
3. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the city council and as an advocate for the issues that you believe are important?
Dedicated funding for housing, getting bus service to the Battle Ridge community, assisting business owners with funding, working with staff to develop new ways to partner with non-profits in housing development, and helping residents during the height of the COVID-19 crisis and as we continue to recover, find funding to cover the expense of hotels as temporary shelter until they can find permanent housing. These are just a few of the items for which I have worked, advocated, and fought and accomplished in my time on the city council. I look forward to doing more.
4. U.S. metros are grappling with a housing shortage, especially a shortage of affordable housing. Raleigh is no different. Many believe that the best way to address this crisis is via dense infill development along public transportation corridors. Do you share this vision for Raleigh’s growth? Please explain.
Infill development along public transportation corridors with city support is just one way to address the shortage of affordable housing. This approach works with city-initiated projects and by being along a transit corridor in order to reduce the need for personal vehicles…to move us toward affordability. This type of development works with the city’s ownership of land along the corridors to use multiple tools to advance affordability.
5. In 2020, Raleigh citizens voted in favor of an $80 million affordable housing bond to assist with acquiring land and building near transit corridors, preserving existing inventory, down payment and homeowner repairs assistance, low-income housing tax credit financing, and more. The city also created a goal of adding 5,700 affordable units over 10 years and is on track to meet that goal. But it’s estimated that Raleigh has a deficit of some 20,000 units currently, and it’s clear much more work is needed. Should the city bring another affordable housing bond before voters? Why or why not? If yes, when, how much should the city ask for, and what should the bond fund?
Bond funding on average has to be allocated within seven years, and at the moment we need to finish allocating the funds from the current bond. We also need to give other zoning code changes time to reach the market. Due to new development some current housing will become naturally occurring affordable housing which will help cut the deficit. We should revisit the question of another bond in a few years.
6. In neighborhoods across the city, ranch homes and other modest, more affordable single-family homes are being torn down and replaced with large (also single-family) McMansions that don’t provide more density. Does the city have any authority to regulate such teardowns? Should it regulate such teardowns and redevelopment?
Currently, Raleigh is unable to regulate teardowns of a private citizen’s real property. The city should not regulate teardowns and redevelopment, but we do have to look at our infill development code which allows us to regulate setbacks and height. The regulation of height and how we measure a home has changed twice in Raleigh since I’ve been on council.
7. One way Raleigh’s city council has attempted to address the city’s housing shortage is by allowing for more flexible housing options such as duplexes, triplexes, and quadraplexes in all neighborhoods in the city, eliminating certain zoning protections, and allowing apartments for zones along bus routes. Do you support this move to bring missing middle housing to the city and do you think it will be an effective policy for managing the city’s growth?
I do support the Missing Middle housing policy specifically because it brings back options removed when the Urban Development Ordinance was adopted. The Missing Middle policy is one tool to help address housing affordability and must work with other tools the city currently has in place. The city must also continue to develop other policies and resources in partnership with the community, county, nonprofits, and private sector.
8. Raleigh’s city council has directed city staff to gather data on absentee investors who are buying up properties in the city. Would you support measures to limit investors from buying up homes as other U.S. cities are considering doing or further regulating whole house short-term rentals that some argue are detracting from the supply of homes available for full-time residents?
I would not support limits on investors buying homes. There are local residents who own investment property as a source of income, many of them are people of color. There would be unintended negative consequences in that regard. Investors contribute to the available inventory of homes for those who are not yet in a position to own a residence. As for additional regulation on whole home rentals, there are relatively few that qualify for that status, and they do not bear significant impact on the overall number of available homes for rent.
9. What role should the city play in ensuring that the longtime residents of rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in Southeast Raleigh and other areas of the city can continue to afford to live in those neighborhoods?
I am already in conversation with our city manager, the county commissioners and county mangers to address property taxes. Over the past year I have been in conversation with OneWake to develop solutions on affordability. My parents and in-laws are retired homeowners, so with first-hand knowledge of the challenges I want to look at all items such as utilities and taxes.
10. Public servants including police officers, firefighters, and teachers can’t afford to live in the city where they work. As a result, Raleigh loses good officers and teachers to other municipalities and is grappling with a current shortage of around 60 firefighters and more than 100 police officers. What can Raleigh leaders do to attract and retain the best officers and other public servants?
I have engaged our Fire & Police Chiefs on the issue of staffing levels. with our chiefs. The city is now having some of the largest recruiting classes and I have supported fast track hiring for lateral entry. I will continue to work with and support both chiefs in addressing staffing challenges which existed prior to both of their arrivals as well as the beginning of my service as a council member. We will develop best practices for the future as we work with both chiefs.
11. Do you support the city council’s decision to eliminate parking minimums for developers? Why or why not?
Yes. In order for developers to have a viable project or successful business they will be motivated to include the parking necessary to support residents or a business.
12. In 2019, Raleigh’s city council voted to eliminate citizen advisory councils (CACs) without public notice or input. Do you feel this was the right decision? Do you support bringing back CACs? What do you think the council is doing right or wrong when it comes to community engagement post-CACs? Could you describe your vision for community engagement in Raleigh?
I voted against the removal of Citizen Advisory Councils in February of 2020 specifically because there was no replacement for these important organizations. The changes to CACs had been in discussion for years. I support bringing back organizations that meaningfully engage community with city staff to share ideas and provide feedback. At this time the Community Engagement Board has been established to help in the post-CAC era. This board is similar to the original RCAC as it was established in 1974. I will work with our Community Engagement Board and staff to establish community zones for staff to go out and meet with residents. Along with the in-person meetings, we will establish a robust online engagement system to receive ideas, share feedback and keep residents informed. I also would like to see information booths set up in our community centers as a way for residents to connect.
12. Following shooting deaths of Raleigh residents by RPD officers, the city council established a civilian-staffed police review board in 2020 that had no official power and fell apart soon after two of its members resigned. The council also established the ACORNS unit to address mental health crises, but data shows the unit rarely assists on calls related to suicides and involuntary mental health commitments, leaving most of those calls to police officers. Do you feel that the council has done enough, in partnership with the police chief, to reform the police force and address officer violence? Would you support cutting the department’s $124.5 million police budget?
Implicit bias training has already been implemented as part of both the academy and in service training for all officers and other trainings are being developed to further ensure that every citizen who has an encounter with RPD is treated fairly and respectfully. I will continue to organize and support events and opportunities that bring police and community members together to address concerns through conversation and connection. The largest portion of the police budget is actually payroll, and at this point in time I would not be willing to make cuts to the department’s budget. That would serve to further prevent officers from being able to live in the Raleigh communities that they serve.
12. Raleigh has made strides on transit in the last several years. Bus fare is free and construction of new Bus Rapid Transit routes is underway, bike lanes are expanding to areas across the city, and commuter rail will eventually connect Raleigh to Durham and Johnston Counties. Is the city doing a good job of managing its current transit systems, encouraging residents to use them, and planning for more future transit and connectivity? Should the city be investing more on bike, pedestrian, and other transit infrastructure?
We need to improve the coverage of cross-town connectivity of our current bus system. Having a system in which all buses do not need to come downtown will help save time and looking at smaller buses can reduce cost. I would like for us to do a better job of segmenting our streets based on type of traffic. Some streets bring US 70 and US 1 thru downtown Raleigh and I would not recommend bike lane dedication there. Some streets will service our Bus Rapid Transit buses, and we have to carefully plan where bus lines and bike lanes intersect. We have residents who live downtown and may not be able to park in their own yards based on design of the older homes, and we need to be respectful of their rights as we plan. The city is adding bike lanes, improving sidewalk connectivity, and promoting mixed use development to bring service and retail closer to residents.
13. Downtown Raleigh has struggled to rebound following the COVID-19 pandemic with foot traffic still down and many storefronts and offices sitting vacant. The council has implemented a new social district to try to bring people downtown again. What more could or should the city council do to revitalize the urban core?
The new social district is only one response to bringing people back downtown. Within 90 days, I will hold a meeting with our small businesses and the community to help further develop a plan to address these challenges.
14. Do you support Raleigh’s $275 million parks bond on the ballot this fall? Why or why not?
Yes. The bond addresses inequity within our parks system. We have communities without parks and some parks have been historically under invested.
15. If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
I will continue to promote economic development opportunities within District C while focusing on giving youth the opportunities they need to advance their skills and secure successful futures for themselves.
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