Durham seeks to expand housing opportunities with loans for developers

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Through a public-private partnership, Durham city leaders are hoping to expand affordable-housing opportunities.

"The city of Durham alone has over 14,000 households that pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing. That's a huge problem -- and one that represents a very big hill for us to climb as a community," said Karen Lado, the Assistant Director with the city's Department of Development.

The partnership has raised $10 million and hopes to double that amount to preserve or create more than 1,000 affordable housing units.

The initial investments are a combination of funds from the City of Durham, Duke University via Self Help, the North Carolina Community Development Initiative, and SunTrust Bank.

"Affordable housing developers have a hard time competing with market-rate buyers who might be better capitalized, who might be able to act more quickly," Lado said.

The loan, which will include below-market interest, is meant to even the playing field.

"They still have to put together the rest of the financing that it actually takes to make a deal affordable, and that is you have to find a source of subsidy, you have to find permanent financing, you have to find construction financing. The only thing the loan fund does is that first step. It lets you get control," Lado explained.

Units can be built anywhere within the city limits, and are available to be sold or rented. Developers need to plan for at least 20 percent of the project to go toward affordable-housing units. Those units will be available to tenants based on a sliding income sale, depending on family size and whether the unit is being rented or purchased.

"We are an extremely rapidly growing part of the country, and whenever you have more people chasing limited housing stock -- prices rice," Lado said.

Durham has about 8,600 restricted-income units.

Durham isn't the only city that plans on addressing affordable housing; Raleigh has plans to add 570 affordable housing units a year during the next decade.
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