Important conversations are currently taking place at all levels of government. It is time to remind our elected officials that the issues facing rural communities like ours are important. Issues such as small business development, broadband access, health care coverage and affordable housing.
Companies with less than 50 employees represent 95% of companies. Millions of homes across the state struggle to access, afford, and use high-speed internet. Over a million North Carolinians are uninsured. Two in five renters and one in five homeowners in North Carolina are burdened by costs, which means they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs.
This information comes from the North Carolina Rural Center, which reminds us that rural issues are more important than ever. They encourage you, and I encourage you, to call or email your federal and state officials, and to attend city council and county commissioner meetings to educate yourself and express your thoughts on these matters.
The mission of the NC Rural Counts Advocacy Program is to “seek, develop and advocate for innovative, sound, and non-partisan policy solutions to address the challenges of rural North Carolina’s economic development and improve the quality of life for people and places. rural people of our state ”.
Let’s talk about one of the problems mentioned above – affordable housing. According to the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, there are 28,894 households in Lee County. Of this number, the homeownership rate is 67%. Of all our homes, 43% were built before 1979 and 14% are mobile homes. Of Lee County’s 14,601 homeowners, their median income is $ 61,969, and 22% of them are cost-strapped homeowners.
This week I attended an Impact Funding meeting, hosted by our local Brick Capital Community Development Corporation, which focuses on affordable housing in Lee County. Their executive director, Kerry Bashaw, shared some interesting stats with those in attendance. Lee County’s median income is approximately $ 61,000. In a two-adult household, this works out to about $ 30,500 per adult. It then comes down to an income of $ 15 per hour per adult. Based on these figures, $ 200,000 and less is considered labor housing. As of Wednesday, only five homes in Lee County were listed for less than $ 200,000, and only two of them were for less than $ 180,000. These houses should be “swallowed up” quickly. Fortunately, said Bashaw, “the median income in our region is increasing and new jobs are coming.” But the average family struggles to find affordable housing.
Brick Capital has plans to fix this problem. They have a property on Washington Avenue where they will be able to build sixteen apartments and forty-one single-family lots. And in the Jackson Heights area, Brick Capital has acquired ten acres, where thirty-four single-family homes can be built, pending the availability of financing.
The NC Rural Center is expanding its focus on promoting sustainable and affordable housing, they hope to advocate for an increase in recurrent funding from the NC Housing Finance Agency for the Workforce Housing Loan Fund, increase recurring funding from the NC Housing Trust Fund to its 7 current million to $ 15 million, prioritize the use of ineligible federal grants for community development and create a systematic policy response to make high quality housing for all an economic asset for every community. Bashaw however shared that “local decisions are the best decisions”.
I encourage you to make your voice heard on this important subject by talking to our state and local elected officials.