Raleigh’s Affordable Housing Bond: Pandemic Casualty or Bold Opportunity?

Affordable Housing

Last December, Raleigh’s newly elected Council invited Mayor Schewel to describe Durham’s playbook for its successful $95 million affordable housing bond. Everyone agreed Durham succeeded by aligning proposed bond expenditures with community priorities. Their commitment to extensive community outreach and input was key to building a broad base of voter trust and support.

Raleigh would adopt Durham‘s playbook for its own November 2020 bond referendum, but then the pandemic crisis hit. Suddenly, in-depth engagement became impossible and Raleigh’s pre-pandemic bond polling became irrelevant. With the dramatic drop in Raleigh’s revenue projections, a recession budget is taking center stage, with painful cuts to services, maintenance, capital spending, and hiring.

In every crisis there is opportunity.

Even in the good times, a growing number of Raleigh residents and families with lagging wages and fixed incomes struggle to make ends meet. Now their suffering is magnified by devastating cuts to jobs, healthcare and housing affordability. And so, as all of us are feeling some level of pandemic pain, the question is whether we can transform our new awareness of need into action.

Moonshots are easier when Raleigh’s economy is humming and surpluses can be diverted to social benefits. The true test of the new Council’s commitment to bold, revolutionary and transformative change is at hand now, at this time of recessionary crisis and opportunity.

Offering rent money for a few homeless families was a step in the right direction, but this is the new Council’s opportunity to move beyond gestures – to think big and act big. What we need now is a revolutionary housing program that transforms the City of Raleigh, bringing us out of the pandemic recession by investing in affordable housing and equitable opportunities for all of us.

Livable Raleigh stands ready to be a partner in this effort.