This piece originally published online at The Pāpur.

Affordable housing. It’s not an issue. It’s the issue.

Home prices and rents have risen dramatically across the nation the last two years, and the effects have been welcomed news for some…and for others, not so much.

Often touted as one of the best places to live in the U.S., Cary’s municipal prosperity has been costly for those whose wages haven’t kept pace, and the problem existed locally, even before the most recent national phenomenon.

First, the Affordable Housing Plan of 2000 was created. Then, there was the 2020 Affordable Housing Plan. Now, we enter 2022, fresh off the Cary Housing Plan of late 2021.

The Cary Housing Plan, approved in November of 2021, has three stated goals: (1) to be a community of choice through high quality, diverse housing development, (2) a place where residents experience a high quality of life, and (3) to pursue regional and non- profit partnerships to meet housing needs.

Will the Town of Cary’s current elected leadership be able to execute on this latest plan?

Only time will tell.

However, time isn’t on their side.

Since the extreme velocity of rising costs began a few years ago, many residents have already been displaced by new infill projects marketed and fashioned for the well-heeled and transplants from areas with higher costs of living (who find Cary’s expenses much less burdensome…for now).

There is, however, one significant affordable housing project in the pipeline.

A proposed development between the Town of Cary, and Charlotte-based residential developer Laurel Street seeks to bring 130 mixed income residential units to a piece of land adjacent to East Cary Middle School, at 921 SE Maynard Road (land once slated for the construction of a water tower).

921 SE Maynard. The land sits adjacent to East Cary Middle School, and behind well known retail store, Ollie’s. Photo by Kurt Hilton. 

While still early in the rezoning process, Laurel Street and the Town of Cary have plans to designate as “affordable” only half the units (all of which are rentals).

Laurel Street representative and Vice President of Development Lee Cochran says you likely won’t see residents moving in “prior to 2024” as the rezoning process, build-out, and lease-up, will take considerable time.

When asked about possible incentives that would make the plan economically feasible for the development company, Cochran points to a potentially favorable land lease from the Town, along with various grants designated for affordable housing initiatives.

The Pāpur aims to inform the public throughout the process, remaining a neutral voice.

Of course, one could pose fair questions about the environmental impacts, the size, timing, location, and the plans for affordable rent rather than affordable ownership.

However, one could also point out that something, at this point, is better than nothing.

The potential for 65 rental units (two to three years from now), on land that was formerly planned for a water tower, is nonetheless, a start…but is it too little and too late?

You can decide.

The Town of Cary and the developer will host a virtual neighborhood rezoning meeting on Wednesday, January 12 at 6:30 p.m. with the opportunity for the public to comment. Register here. 

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