'It's not possible': Raleigh first time home buyers priced out despite financial assistance programs

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Friday, July 22, 2022
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Raleigh Affordable Housing

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Taryn Wilkins caught a break when she bought her Raleigh home. A friend sold the house to her. Otherwise, Wilkins said her story would have been different.

"If I tried to search for a house to buy, I would have never bought a house. It's not possible, especially in this area, I would have ended up probably renting and paying more in rent than I do for my mortgage a month," Wilkins explained.

Affordability is a problem, home buyers continue to struggle with in Raleigh. This week, Triangle MLS reported the average home sales price year-to-date is $538,894 in Wake County, while in places like Raleigh the average hourly wage is $21 an hour according to ZipRecruiter.

"We were only barely able to do it with two incomes, no kids, no other crazy expenses," continued Wilkins.

The resources put in place to help families with low to moderate income buy their first home in the city are also facing the realities of this competitive and expensive housing market.

"I think everybody's frustrated with the current market," said Erika Brandt, Raleigh's housing programs administrator.

Raleigh's Homebuyers Assistance Program, provides help with down payments, closing costs, and financing gaps for families with low to moderate income.

"Because of the federal funding source that we use for our program, we have to follow a purchase price limit, to ensure that the home is in fact affordable to the buyer. So up until June of this year, for the past year, that limit was $275,000, which clearly is pretty low, compared to the average, you know, sales price that we're seeing now. It recently increased in June to $309,000," explained Brandt.

The homebuyer's assistance program would typically assist about 50 to 60 people a year before the pandemic and housing boom. So far in 2022, only five people were able to close on their homes with assistance through the program.

Brandt said it's difficult to kind of keep pace with the rate at which the housing prices are escalating.

"It's really a detriment to our city, and our community that folks are getting priced out and are having to make tough decisions about where to live, and that we're not able to accommodate a more diverse kind of array of people and households and income levels. It's really, it's really a challenge."

Brandt said dollars from the 2020 housing bond referendum will help them reach more families.

"We're kind of in the program design and planning phase right now. And we're hoping that in the next couple of months, we'll be able to start making loans with that money for homebuyers that hopefully will be structured in a way to get rid of at least some of the limitations that the current program has."

To find out more about the affordable housing options and resources available for families in Raleigh the city is holding an open house on August 6 at Chavis Park from 9 am to noon.