Apex community a counter to 'dearth' of affordable housing in Triangle as population booms

Michael Perchick Image
Monday, January 30, 2023
Apex community a counter to 'dearth' of affordable housing in Triangle
"We can't build the units fast enough to meet the need."

APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- Advocates are continuing to highlight a shortage of affordable housing options, as rental and home sales prices increase across the Triangle.

According to Triangle MLS, the median sales price in Wake County rose by 19% in 2022 from 2021, jumping from $395,000 to $470,000. Neighboring counties saw similar patterns in median sales price, with jumps of 17.4% in Durham, 21.7% in Johnston County, and 8.6% in Orange County, respectively.

"We still have a dearth of affordable housing in our community, and we can't build the units fast enough to meet the need," said Yolanda Winstead, President and CEO of DHIC, a Raleigh-based nonprofit.

DHIC is overseeing the development of Broadstone Walk along South Hughes Street in Apex, a new 164-unit building set to open in May 2024 which will feature one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments for families making 40-70% of the area median income. Across the 3,000 units it manages, Winstead said the average waitlist time is 12-24 months.

"What we've been seeing over the past couple of years is this region has been growing quite a bit is that challenge, that affordability challenge is creeping further and further up the income spectrum and so more middle-income families are feeling it in the way that low-income families have always felt it," said Samuel Gunter, Executive Director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition.

The Triangle's booming population has exacerbated existing challenges in securing land to build affordable housing.

"Unfortunately, we are competing for land with those market-rate developers," said Winstead.

Gunter added, "What has been real for Wake County is (it's) one of the more expensive markets in the state. And that continues to be true, and that cost has been pushing further and further out. The folks who have been pushing out to Wendell or Knightdale are now pushing out to Rocky Mount or Wilson or even further."

Winstead credited municipalities for working to streamline the process to move forward with projects, noting it took about four years between initially being awarded low-income tax credits for Broadstone Walk to its anticipated completion date.

"You can see the timeline's very long to get the affordable housing units in service, so it's difficult to catch up," Winstead explained.

Advocates believe increasing supply is ultimately necessary to drive down prices and enhance accessibility, the latter of which is a key concern for workers and businesses.

"If the folks doing those jobs that are necessary for the functioning of the community can't afford to live in the community, you've got a challenge," Gunter said.

"We regionally don't have the kind of transit system that makes it for folks who live far out to get to the central business district or into the areas where most of the jobs are situated," added Winstead.

It's become a point of emphasis for business owners, with the Apex Chamber of Commerce expressing excitement over the Broadstone Walk project.

"We are a good community that has thriving economic items around here, but we do have that need to have folks come in with a workforce that's going to need affordable housing," said David Bohm, the Chamber's Executive Director.

Bohm said town officials have been receptive to concerns from business owners surrounding housing limitations.

"(Businesses are) still under that stress and strain of not having enough people here, and those who are coming here are coming from further distances away," Bohm said.

That's forced some businesses to reduce hours, as they struggle not with drawing customers back following the pandemic but keeping up with demand.

"You are seeing that foot traffic (return)," said Bohm, pointing to a diverse customer base.

Broadstone Walk is located within a mile of a GoTriangle stop, with Winstead pointing to additional efforts elsewhere to pair transportation considerations with affordable housing.

"Here in the city of Raleigh, the city and the county are working on bus rapid transit corridors and acquiring properties around those nodes so they can place affordable housing along the transit lines," said Winstead.

"As we look for community-wide solutions, especially in growing area like the Triangle, land use is a key piece of that puzzle. For a growing community, you've got to be thinking about density. If the jobs are coming, if the people are coming, and you're not setting the table for the type of housing stock that keeps people somewhat geographically compact, it's just going to be further and further out, putting more and more of a strain on a transportation system that's heavily car-dependent. And it even makes solving the public transportation problem harder because you're dealing with a wider geography to connect riders to places of employment and so on," Gunter noted.

Applications for Broadstone Walk are projected to open up in February or March of 2024.