2020: A Year of Action, Initiatives in New Hanover County

By County Manager Chris Coudriet

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners held the 2020 State of the County address on February 10 to a packed room at the historic courthouse. I left feeling proud of the work the county has accomplished over the past year, and energized at the new projects and action that will take place in the year ahead.

If you didn’t catch the State of the County, I encourage you to watch the 37-minute address, given by Vice-Chair Patricia Kusek and Chair Julia Olson-Boseman, here.

In the address, the chair describes 2020 as “a year of action, of advancing key initiatives that will benefit our county and our community.” And I think she is spot on.

Several projects that tie directly to the county’s strategic plan and fill gaps that exist in our community will be underway soon. They focus on workforce housing, impact investing, and the older adult population. I believe these new initiatives have the power to positively impact our county now and for the future…

Workforce Housing

This spring, the Board of Commissioners plans to convey approximately 16 acres of county-owned property on Castle Hayne Road, in the Wrightsboro area, to Cape Fear Habitat. Habitat then plans to develop a subdivision on the land, which will bring more affordable home-ownership opportunities to residents in our area. This effort has been endorsed by the County/City Workforce Housing Advisory Committee and the property’s rezoning has been approved by the Planning Board.

In addition, the county is going to explore a pilot program this year to fund rental gap assistance for moderate income workers in our county who earn between 60 and 120 percent of the area median income. We currently provide funding to numerous housing organizations that are helping our low-income neighbors, but a gap exists for our middle-income workers like public safety personnel, teachers, service workers, and others who have fewer housing options available to them and are housing cost-burdened.

While details are still being determined, we hope to make an initial investment of $100,000 in this pilot program to provide rental assistance and help bridge the affordability gap that exists.

Social Impact Fund

Beginning this July, as part of the annual budget, the county plans to implement a Social Impact Fund as a pilot program to run alongside the current Non-County Agency Funding Program. The Social Impact Fund will be based on outcomes set by the county and will initially be focused on three key priorities: opioid and substance use prevention and treatment, early childhood education, and employment and workforce readiness.

The outcomes will be in line with the county’s strategic plan and resources will be allocated based on the greatest social needs in our community. We plan to provide three organizations with seed money this coming fiscal year and identify clear outcomes that they must meet. Based on their demonstrated achievements and results, these organizations will then receive additional county funding over the next three years.

Impact investing is a new approach for the county, and I think it will help ensure our funding is intentional, measurable, and has the greatest benefits to our community.

Master Aging Plan

We will also develop a five-year Master Aging Plan in 2020 through our Senior Resource Center. It will provide greater coordination of community services to help older adults age in place, aid in the transition from the hospital back to the home, increase paratransit services and efficiencies for older adults, enhance the county’s services, and address food and nutrition programs for the aging population.

We want to support and foster lifelong community engagement and well-being for older adults, so this plan will provide a framework that can evolve and change to meet the needs of our citizens.

I appreciate the Board of Commissioners’ forward-thinking and strategic vision that is guiding these new initiatives, and also the dedicated county employees who will help ensure these new plans come to life and meet the needs of our community.

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