- "We can’t wait for the housing market to stabilize itself. We need to be aggressive in our attempts to create and preserve our affordable housing," said Wake County Housing Affordability and Community Revitalization director Lorena McDowell.
With housing prices sky high across North Carolina’s urban areas, many local governments are increasing funding to government “affordable housing” programs. The latest example came this week, with the Wake County Board of Commissioners unanimously approving another $35 million for affordable housing spending.
The money will come from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the county has already been approved for. Wake County received the most ARPA funds in the state, at $216.7 million. They have already spent or appropriated $172.6 million of the money. This $35 million approved to be spent on affordable housing on Monday was part of the remaining $44 million.
“Stable and affordable housing is a foundation for the health and well-being of everyone in our county,” Wake County Commissioner Vickie Adamson is quoted as saying in the release. “Addressing this need has been a top priority for me and this Board, and we need to keep this momentum up in the coming years. Federal funding opportunities like this, paired with our ongoing preservation efforts through the Wake County Affordable Housing Preservation Fund, are vital in ensuring people here have a safe roof over their heads.”
Free-market economists and developers are instead asking for the government to get out of the way by reducing regulatory burdens and zoning restrictions. In Virginia, Republican Gov. Glenn Younkin has highlighted these problems and is proposing clearing away burdens that have prevented building. In a recent speech to a housing conference he hosted, Younkin said affordability can only be solved by allowing more supply to be built.
“There aren’t enough homes,” said Youngkin. “There aren’t enough units today. Full stop.”
Often, those on the left also favor creating more units, but want the government to have more, not less, involvement to achieve this aim through various programs and funding from state, local, and federal government sources.
The Wake County press release said that the “appropriation was possible because the U.S. Treasury Department recently adjusted ARPA guidelines in an effort to spur the development of more affordable housing at time of rising rents.”
The money will be spent using federal programs like the HOME Investment Partnerships Program Grants and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. HOME requires a 25% match from any jurisdiction receiving money.
“Since 2018, Wake County has funded nearly 3,000 affordable units within our county,” said Wake County Housing Affordability and Community Revitalization director Lorena McDowell. “However, we’re also the third fastest growing county in the country, so we can’t stop there, and we can’t wait for the housing market to stabilize itself. We need to be aggressive in our attempts to create and preserve our affordable housing, and these federal dollars are yet another step that Wake is making toward that end.”
There is a Dec. 31, 2026, deadline by which the ARPA funds will need to be spent. According to the release, the board approved $18.5 million from the County Capital fund to be spend on affordable housing as well.