New developments are raising the bar for affordable housing, Durham mayor says

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Willard Street Apartments in Durham will be the new standard for what affordable housing will look like moving forward in Durham, the mayor declared Thursday,

A resident told ABC11 that the complex is life-changing for her.

"I can just hear the quiver in my voice," said Renee Valentine, who was emotional, even a bit nervous.

For the first time, the 54-year-old grandmother has an affordable place to call her own.

"When I put my key in the door for the first two weeks, I had goosebumps," Valentine said. "It was important to me because this is a big part of the restart. The redesign of the resilient Renee Valentine."

Valentine is on the top floor at Willard Street Apartments, which has six stories.

She is one of 82 families who will enjoy breathtaking views of downtown Durham, just steps from Amtrak and the Bus Station.

The units are based on income.

Some people are paying less than $200 in monthly rent.

Affordable housing is one of the most pressing issues nationwide and in the Triangle.

Affordable housing means spending less than 30% of your net income on mortgage and utilities. For example, a teacher who earns $45,000 a year and about $3,750 per month would have to spend no more than $1,250 toward rent and utilities to stay in an affordable cost-of-living range.

In Wake County, a one-bedroom apartment will set you back about $1,140 a month, leaving just $110 a month for utilities in that scenario.

Race and segregation can also create disparities and barriers to affordable housing.

According to the Census, the national poverty rate is more prevalent among Blacks and Latinos at 19% and 17% respectively.

Researchers estimate that on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the highest, neighborhoods in Durham and Raleigh still reflect signs of racial segregation.

Both coming in at 34.

On Thursday, Durham Mayor Steve Schewal said Willard Street Apartments and others to come will fight gentrification, creating a racially and economically diverse downtown.

"The 82 units that will be built at J.J. Henderson need to be and will be at this standard," Schewel said. "The units that will be at Liberty Street need to be and will be at this standard."

The mayor said the city has a $164 million affordable-housing plan for the next 5 years.

Even more affordable housing is coming to Durham. A new development to be called Ashton Place will create affordable units for people age 55 and older.
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