Raleigh hopes to learn from Durham while shaping affordable housing bond

Andrea Blanford Image
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Raleigh wants to model Durham on affordable housing
Raleigh wants to model Durham on affordable housing

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- One week before Christmas Eve, people packed Raleigh City Council chambers for a special work session to address one of the capital city's most pressing needs: affordable housing.

On the night she was sworn into office, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin called for a city-wide bond referendum in 2020 to support affordable housing, along with Dix Park and greenways.

Steve Schewel, Durham Mayor, who accepted an invitation to speak at the work session, explained how the Bull City successfully passed its $95 million affordable housing bond referendum in November.

"You know that the crisis is driven by market forces and that we have a choice," Schewel said, addressing city council. "We can either submit to this future that we're gonna get unless we intervene boldly--which is, in our case, a rich, white, unaffordable central city. That's one choice we could have. Or we could have made a choice, which we did, to intervene boldly in that future and try to change that trajectory."

Schewel said to win 76-percent voter approval of the bond, city leaders had to overcome general distrust of government spending and specifically distrust amongst the African American community that government doesn't keep its promises.

"This is a promise we cannot break," he said. "We need to deliver."

"We're not gonna copy Durham, but we're gonna learn from Durham," Baldwin said after the meeting.

"We know we have to reach out to our African American community, our Latino community and ensure that this is inclusive. Ours is a little different because it is a moonshot--we will have a Dix Park bond in there and park equity bond as well. But it's really about our quality of life."

Baldwin said it's likely that city council will have a price tag for the bond, which will have to show up as three separate bonds on the November ballot, within 60 days after conducting some polling.

"The polling is going to determine the amount," she said. "We're not gonna go and do something where we can't be successful, especially on the housing side. That would set us back two years."