The City of Raleigh is buying affordable housing to protect it from developers

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RALEIGH, NC — Rents in Wake County are rising, eliminating hundreds of affordable housing units each year.

In the last 10 years, Wake County has lost nearly 45,000 units renting for less than $1,000 a month. In 2010, there were more than 90,000 rental homes in Wake County for less than $1,000 a month.

“Right now, we’re shedding affordable units faster than we’re adding them,” said Mary-Ann Baldwin, Mayor of Raleigh.

That’s why Raleigh and Wake County leaders are standing shoulder to shoulder with partners from three of the state’s largest banks to launch a new affordable housing preservation fund.

The new multi-million dollar plan aims to ensure that the affordable places that currently exist remain affordable. Over the next 15 years, this new fund will aim to keep nearly 3,200 units affordable so developers and nonprofits can get quick credit to buy or maintain existing affordable housing — rather than selling it to new developments.

The nearly $62 million fund will provide loans to purchase, renovate or maintain affordable housing. The county says it will allow current homeowners and nonprofits to compete in the hot real estate market.

Historic, affordable rentals near downtown offer rooms for under $800 a month

The fund is already being used for a historic 83-year-old complex called Grosvenor Gardens. Its location on Hillsborough Street between downtown Raleigh and the state of NC makes the complex a prime location for development.

That’s why this new fund is helping the City of Raleigh and a nonprofit organization called CASA buy these homes and keep them affordable.

Grosvenor Gardens, described in a 1939 newspaper ad as “luxurious”, “affordable” and the “most modern” apartments in Raleigh, offers some of the cheapest rental rates in the area.

“I pay $795 a month,” says Ian Price, a college student in need of affordable rent.

Over the past decade, the district has lost 59% of the units renting for less than $750 a month.

He says the landlord of his old apartment increased the rent “at the last minute” and as a student on a limited income he had to look for another apartment.

Affordable housing in competition with new developments

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable housing as inexpensive apartments are being bulldozed for new builds with higher rents.

As Raleigh renters feel the pressure of rising prices, this is part of the county’s affordable housing strategy to keep families in their homes as the cost of living rises.

“Someone earning minimum wage in Wake County would have to work 114 hours a week to afford a modest one-bedroom unit,” says Wake County Commissioner Vickie Adamson. “That is not acceptable for us.”

According to Tucker Bartlett, vice president of the Self-Help Ventures Fund, the loans go to nonprofits and developers working to preserve affordable housing — and give them a competitive edge.

“When it comes to getting affordable housing, we compete with these investors,” says Adamson.

Since 2019, the county has also approved funding to build nearly 3,000 new affordable units.

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