310,000 people in North Carolina are spending at least half of their income on housing

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Hundreds of housing industry experts met during the past two days at the Raleigh Convention Center to discuss ways to address the affordable housing crisis.

The 2019 North Carolina Affordable Housing Conference was hosted by the North Carolina Housing Coalition, Centrant Community Capital, and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.

Leaders used Monday and Tuesday to discuss best practices in the industry, review innovative ways to provide affordable housing, and learn of the latest news affecting the industry.

"We need to be able to figure out how we can set aside land," said Scott Farmer, executive director of Raleigh-based North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. "How can we identify (affordable housing) as a priority need and move a little bit faster as we have done in the past."

Various organizations, including financial institutions, met to brainstorm how to tackle the issue. Mayoral, congressional, and presidential candidates have all campaigned on the issue of affordable housing. Agencies such as the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition are fighting to increase the resources for developers to provide more affordable housing for renters and buyers alike.

"It's much more economic to build market-rate housing and luxury apartments unless you have some sort of a subsidy like the low income housing tax provides," said Emily Cadik, the executive director of the coalition. Cadik served as a keynote speaker during a Tuesday session of the conference.

The work of those in attendance will affect people such as Paulette Blakey.

In October 2018, Blakey was forced out of her apartment in Raleigh's Glenwood Towers after the unit next to her went up in flames. Blakey never returned to the property as a resident. Instead, she spent a couple months in a hotel.

She now has a permanent home complete with amenities that Glenwood Towers lacked.

"This unit that I'm in now has a dishwasher. It has a washing machine and dryer facility. It has a huge bathroom with a tub. I love it," she exclaimed. "I mean I love it."

On a fixed income, Blakey makes too much to qualify for most income-based programs, but not enough to afford market rent in Wake County.

"It's like one of those things where you're stuck in the middle," Blakey said. "But I have to have housing. It shouldn't have to be so complicated."

Cadik said her work continues in Washington, D.C. urging policy makers to increase the availability of tax credit options to incentivize developers.

"Affordable housing is not just an issue in certain neighborhoods. It's an issue that, we all need it, we all want it," Farmer said. "And it's finding ways to better utilize the resources we have to achieve that and be able to work in all communities regardless of size and location."
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