NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC - At today's joint New Hanover County and City of Wilmington meeting, the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to dedicate at least $15 million from the county's existing revenues over the next five years for programs and initiatives that increase and improve the stock of affordable homes in New Hanover County, and increase residents' access to affordable housing opportunities.
"We want families to have a safe, affordable home to lay their heads at night, for children to have the stability that comes with affordable housing, and for every resident to be able to live in the same county where they work," said Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman. "We are going to work together as the county, city, and with other private entities that have expressed interest in being part of the solution - to help fund needed initiatives without asking our property owners to shoulder that burden through increased taxes. I believe this is a measured approach, it starts funding specific strategies nearly immediately after a plan is in place, and it shows that we aren't just talking about affordable housing - we are committed to doing something about it together."
The majority of City Council members applauded the county's commitment and noted that the city will continue their investments in affordable housing. Together, this will provide a sustainable foundation of funding, and the county and city will work to leverage public dollars with the private sector and others in the community to further increase the investment in affordable housing.
In the coming months, county staff will develop the housing program framework, in keeping with the recommendations of the joint County/City Workforce Housing Advisory Committee, that will be brought before the board for final approval. Staff will also move forward right away with building the capacity and positions needed for the county's housing support and funding to begin on July 1 at the start of the new fiscal year.
In just the past few years, the county has invested around $35 million in housing, with the help of federal and American Rescue Plan Act funds. This includes funding water and sewer infrastructure for the creation of affordable housing, assisting nonprofit programs through the county's annual budget, creating housing programs to help residents with rent, gap financing, and mortgage assistance, and donating 11 properties to Habitat for Humanity for the creation of affordable homes, including 14 acres of land in Wrightsboro.
The county's commitment of $15 million for affordable housing will be in addition to funding and programs already in place.
Sales Tax Referendum
At today's meeting, the board and council members also discussed the possibility of a quarter cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements, which would include the transit system, rail realignment, and bike and pedestrian paths. The county is the entity that has the authority to run the county-wide sales tax referendum and a decision has not been made by the Board of Commissioners at this time on whether to calendar the referendum for the November ballot for vote by the citizens.