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Dear Mayor and Council: Your Time Is Running Out to Fix the 2020 Affordable Housing Bond Proposal

Livable Raleigh sent the following letter to Mayor Baldwin and the City Council, which is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 1 p.m., evening session and public comment at 7 p.m.

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August 27, 2020

Mayor Baldwin and Members of City Council:

I’m writing on behalf of Livable Raleigh with serious questions about the City’s proposed $80 million bond issue for affordable housing. Livable Raleigh is an active participant in the Wake County Housing Justice Coalition. Our position is consistent with the Coalition’s concerns as expressed to you repeatedly since February – valid concerns that, so far, you have chosen to ignore.

Now, you are literally racing the clock. Mail-in ballots will be received and cast by Raleigh voters beginning in a matter of days. Unless you act in the coming week, voters will be forced to guess what the bond is for, because you will have failed to tell them.

 

Specifically, we urge you to spell out, in detail, how the $80 million will assist those Raleigh residents who are in the greatest need for safe, affordable housing, as explained by the City’s official Consolidated Housing Plan.

16,685 households in Raleigh with very-low incomes pay more than half of their income in rent. That number comes straight from the Plan.

The Covid-19 pandemic only worsens their deprivation.

**

Since February, the Housing Justice Coalition has asked you to make these specific program commitments:

    • Commit that the bond money will assist low-income households whose pay is at or near the minimum wage. They include essential workers in our day care centers, nursing homes, grocery stores, retail stores and distribution centers.
    • Commit that bond funds will not further gentrify our historically African-American neighborhoods by continuing to displace low-income residents, and instead will help them keep and improve their homes.
    • Commit to specific goals for the $80 million expenditure before the public is asked to vote. Frankly, your “buckets” of money – with vague names and no outcomes defined – are disrespectful to your constituents.
    • Commit to the creation of an Oversight board for all City housing programs, with representation for impacted residents.
    • Pledge that equity and inclusion, rather than the desires of developers, will drive your decisions.

On June 2, the Coalition sent you a 14-page letter with detailed recommendations to improve the bond package. You never replied.

Before and after that date, Coalition members held extensive discussions with experts, including Durham officials who helped win approval of the Bull City’s more ambitious $95 million bond issue in 2019.

As Durham Mayor Steve Schewel told you directly when you invited him to speak to you last December, the key to Durham’s success was exactly what we’ve been asking for:

    • Durham set specific program goals.
    • Durham committed to help those most in need.
    • Durham reached out broadly to impacted communities before initiating the bond.
    • You’ve done none of the above.

**

This week, Livable Raleigh conducted a webinar featuring Coalition experts.

We learned that Raleigh spent $46.8 million over the last 5 years to subsidize so-called “affordable housing” projects that mainly benefitted moderate-income families, up to $55,000 a year and in some cases more.

City funds were designated to assist 2,709 units of new housing over 5 years. Only 87 units were intended to be affordable by low-income families. The rest were not.

There’s something wrong with Affordable Housing if the poor are excluded.

 During the webinar, we issued a simple recommendation:

Continue spending $9-10 million a year to assist moderate-income families; this money comes mainly from the city’s Penny for Housing property tax.

Add the $80 million bond money over a 5-year period to assist low-income families and those without homes. Use it only for this purpose.

With new money from the bond issue, create new programs that aid our historically African-American neighborhoods.

We trust that you will take our concerns seriously. We know that you want this bond issue to be approved. But unless policy commitments are made and soon, the voters will not have enough information to cast an informed vote, and many may vote no.

You have it within your power to set this right. Please, while there’s still time, do so.

Sincerely,

Susan Maruyama

Chair – Livable Raleigh

A CALL TO ACTION: – Click Here to send an email to Council, urging them to commit the bond funds to Raleigh’s Essential Workers and Families Facing Evictions

Do you want more details about the Affordable Housing Bond?  Check out these resources from Livable Raleigh’s recent Bond Webinar –

View the 2020 Affordable Housing Bond Webinar Video

View the Webinar Presentation Slides

View the Webinar Questions and Answers