The creation of an affordable housing fund went to the top of Cary’s to-do list Tuesday when the town council unanimously approved a new housing plan.
The plan includes 22 ambitious action items designed to increase the supply of affordable housing. It was met with widespread support from residents as well as nonprofits working to house people at lower incomes.
“If you drive through my neighborhood, you’ll see the problem,” said Stephen Walker, who lives near downtown Cary off Park Street. “Lot after lot has been razed. Massive houses have come up. We need balance. We need to understand that a healthy town is diverse.”
Cary employees and first responders deserve to live where they work, Walker said.
Jacquie Ayala, advocacy director for Habitat Wake, agreed, saying, “Today there are thousands of people who work to make Cary a great community to live in, but can’t afford to live here themselves.”
Ayala was enthusiastic about three specific goals in the plan—the creation of a homeownership program (ideally down payment assistance for people making less than 80 percent of the area median income, she said), the construction of affordable housing on town-owned land, and the creation of a housing fund.
The question is: where will the money come from?
Cary’s housing plan includes a lot of progressive goals including relieving the financial burden on seniors and supporting nonprofits in their work to house people. The plan also outlines new programs that could help stabilize the housing market like a low-interest loan fund “for landlords to make repairs to rental housing” and an emergency housing program “to keep residents affected by a crisis in their homes.”
What’s unclear to some advocates, however, is how and when these plans will be put into action. Several suggested using a “penny tax” similar to the one enacted in Apex to create a dedicated funding stream for affordable housing.
“We believe a ‘penny for housing plan’ … would greatly benefit our town in Cary,” said Pastor Wesley Spears-Newsome, a member of nonprofit One Wake. “I love this plan and I hope we can muster the financial strength to make it a reality.”
Beth Bordeaux, an affordable housing advocate, agreed, saying she and other members of a volunteer group advising Wake County are encouraging cities and towns to enact a 1.5-cent or similar tax for affordable housing.
In response, Mayor Pro Tem Don Frantz said the town is already committed to spending more money than a one-cent task would raise. He said the council has proven they have the political will to support affordable housing and increased development despite objections from some residents.
“We are going to put our money where our mouth is, I promise you,” Frantz said. “Every single one of us is committed to dealing with this.”
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