The Raleigh City Council approved a series of significant budget amendments on Tuesday, allocating more than $4 million to affordable housing, prevention of homelessness, and legal assistance for residents.
On affordable housing, the city council:
— Gave $1.5 million to housing nonprofit CASA to help with the construction of King’s Ridge, a complex with 100 affordable apartments, 50 of which are reserved for permanent supportive housing.
—Approved a $1.86 million contract with nonprofit Rebuilding Together of the Triangle to run the Raleigh Home Revitalization Program. The program provides zero-interest, forgivable loans up to $30,000 to low-income longtime homeowners for necessary repairs and maintenance. The goal of the program is to help at least 200 homeowners over four years in areas near major transit.
Council member Mary Black asked if the program will help people in southeast Raleigh since it is targeted specifically toward homes in transit-adjacent areas. Raleigh Housing Programs administrator Erika Brandt responded that the city has two other citywide home repair programs, and this one was designed to be specifically targeted, but if city staff receive many applicants from just outside the eligible areas, they will reconsider the requirements.
— Approved the lease of seven acres of land off of U.S. 401 (south of the Beltline) to Oppidan Investment Company for a 119-unit affordable rental development. The development will include one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments with rents ranging from $400-1,400 per month. By purchasing and leasing the land, the city can ensure long-term affordability, said Brandt.
On homelessness, the city council:
— Approved two $262,500 contracts, one with Passage Home and one with Triangle Family Services, to offer short-term financial assistance (such as rent payments), case management, and crisis housing search assistance to people experiencing homelessness.
The city council also approved $50,000 in funding for the Wake Legal Support Center, which opened last month. The center, which until Tuesday was solely funded by the county and through various grants, offers free information to residents to help guide them through the court system.
“Each year, hundreds of Raleigh citizens must appear in front of me and navigate the court system on their own, representing themselves,” said District Court Judge Ashleigh Parker Dunston, co-founder of the center. “We also know this affects underprivileged and minority individuals more than anyone.”
In Wake County, 11 percent of residents live in poverty and can’t afford to hire an attorney. Free representation, offered by Legal Aid, is also very thin on the ground, with only about one lawyer for every 10,000 eligible residents, Dunston said.
The center currently offers access to legal forms and information packets, free clinics to teach people how to navigate the courts, and “know your rights” presentations. Later this year, the center plans to launch a website with resources, as well as offer free legal representation from lawyers doing pro-bono work.
Primarily, the center will help people address small claims issues (evictions and landlord/tenant disputes) and domestic issues (divorce, custody, child support).
With funding from Raleigh, the center will be able to hire additional staff, including Spanish-speaking staff, and stay open longer, said Jennifer Lechner, executive director of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission and co-founder of the center.
“We’ve only been open about four weeks and it has been overwhelming demand,” Lechner said.
Also Tuesday, the city council:
— Heard an update on the Oak City Biz Labs program, which provides grants to businesses that lost revenue due to the COVID pandemic. The program offers grants of up to $30,000 to small local business owners once they complete business stabilization training. In round one, the city gave $1.1 million to 51 small business owners.
Applications for round two of funding are open February 27-March 12. A webinar about the program and eligibility requirements takes place February 20. In response to concerns from business owners, eligibility has been expanded to include those who previously received Raleigh Relief Funds in 2020.
— Approved a $349,770 streetscape and safety study of the Five Points intersection, where there have been several “high-profile traffic crashes” in the last few years.
— Approved construction of “traffic calming devices” (speed bumps, traffic circles) for 15 neighborhood streets including Dixie Trail and Quail Ridge Road. The city also approved a list of 20 roads for future traffic-calming projects, including Brookhaven Drive and East Martin Street.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. Follow Staff Writer Jasmine Gallup on Twitter or send an email to email@example.com. Comment on this story at firstname.lastname@example.org.