Historically, Raleigh’s City Council has demonstrated its willingness to advocate at the appropriate levels of North Carolina state government when the business at hand is considered worthy of such activity. Recently, such advocacy was initiated using a letter authored by Council Member At-large Melton requesting changes in state laws in order to allow for increased police oversight board powers.
Livable Raleigh believes it is time to advocate with the Legislature for the ability to enact Inclusionary Zoning. Per the UNC School of Government, Inclusionary Zoning involves using a local government’s zoning power to encourage private developers to construct affordable units as part of larger housing projects. Gaining the ability to add inclusionary zoning to Raleigh’s Affordable Housing toolkit will provide more leverage with developers when collaborating on Affordable Housing Plans.
Mr. Branch is the logical candidate to spearhead such an effort because the district he serves faces acute housing challenges and because he has long cited the fact that inclusionary zoning is in conflict with state law. Instead of continuing to recite the sad fact that inclusionary zoning is in conflict with state law, when citizens ask about collaborating with developers in ways which require affordable housing production, now is an ideal opportunity for Mr. Branch to lead.
While the North Carolina Home Builders Association is reportedly opposed to inclusionary zoning, times have changed and the evolving political climate may well offer more support for an idea which has been dismissed as “against state law” for far too long. Fact is, local developer John Kane has long been quoted in the press as supporting changes in the law which would require a straight percentage of all development to be earmarked for affordable housing.
A number of housing advocates in Raleigh and nationwide view inclusionary zoning as one of the keys to effectively addressing affordable housing needs.
Witnessing Mayor Pro Tem Branch take the lead on this critical issue, will identify him as a member of the council who is unafraid of business interests opposed to inclusionary zoning and thus position him as being serious about addressing the woefully inadequate affordable housing programs instituted to date here in Raleigh.
One risk with inclusionary zoning and the current council members led by Mayor Baldwin is they might be predisposed to fail to use inclusionary zoning to help our homeless and most at risk fellow citizens and instead opt to build so called affordable housing for the more well to do.
First we “Showed You the Money.” Then we “Followed the Money.” In this third of our series about the money in Raleigh’s politics, we examine the effects of Special Interest money pouring into the city council campaigns.
How does it affect City Council elections and the resulting government and policies when special interests pour money into the campaigns? Will good candidates be shut out of city government because these special interests have priced them out of the process going forward?
Let’s compare the cost of running a winning campaign for Raleigh City Council in 2017 to the cost in the most recent campaigns in 2019 when money from the development community flooded the races to buy influence.
In 2017 the average spent for a city-wide At-Large council race was $80,950. In 2019, that increased to $117,112. An increase of 45%.
In 2017 the average spent for a district seat was $28,310. In 2019, that soared to $106,602. An increase of 376%. Nearly FOUR times the cost.
The below chart shows cost comparisons for individual races between 2017 and 2019. What we can see by the numbers is that each race with a dramatic influx of special interest money was a race where an incumbent was replaced by a candidate funded in large part by the development community. While in one At-Large race and in Districts B and C there was no appreciable increase in spending and the incumbents were returned to office.
City Council Race
About the mayor’s race: We couldn’t make an “apples-to-apples” comparison between 2017 and 2019 campaign spending. This was due to a runoff election in 2017 which did not happen in 2019. Through our public records research, we could not determine the amount of money spent just on the initial election. As a result, we can’t make an accurate comparison between the 2017 and 2019 mayor’s race.
* David Knight’s totals include $34,800 spent for direct mail and digital advertising on his behalf by the NC Property Rights Fund, a registered PAC associated with the NC Association of Realtors.
† An additional $105,000 was spent for direct mail, digital advertising and polling by Triangle Government Alliance, a registered PAC associated with the Triangle Apartment Association. Their filing documents do not detail what amounts were spent for specific candidates. They supported three candidates in the election. David Knight and Saige Martin, who both won. And, Brian Fitzsimmons, who lost. Based on the information available, $35,000, one-third of the total, has been added to each of David Knight’s and Saige Martin’s totals.
After the July 7 City Council meeting, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin published the following statement in social media:
“Big changes are coming to Raleigh. Yesterday, the City Council took major steps forward to make our City more equitable, affordable, safer, and welcoming to all.
After several months of staff research and planning, we followed through on our promise to allow the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as granny flats, by right in every residential district of the City. At the suggestion of Councilor Nicole Stewart, we eliminated a rule limiting occupancy and will allow live-work units as well as short-term rentals. I’ve asked staff to look at ways that we can encourage the construction of more ADUs. Not only does this give Raleigh residents more control over their own property, it will increase housing choices and availability. We also expanded cottage courts – an example of the “missing middle housing” we are encouraging — and eliminated minimum parking requirements downtown and in transit overlay districts. The latter change will allow housing to be built less expensively and moves us toward creating a less car-dependent city.
Additionally, Raleigh voters will officially have the opportunity to vote on an $80 million affordable housing bond this November, as we voted to move forward with the bond at our council meeting yesterday. The bond includes funding for the construction of housing through public-private partnerships, low-income affordable housing, a first-time home buyers program, and a home repair fund.
I, along with many of my fellow council members, campaigned on getting these things done, and yesterday we delivered.”
Fair Housing Attorney Yolanda Taylor responded to Baldwin:
“Lies. Some people wouldn’t know what equity looked like if it walked up to them and slapped the mask off their face.
Equity is not a word we just toss around in the air because it sounds good. Equity is about ensuring fairness in programming, local policies and outcomes.
Taylor Receiving Award
Currently, Raleigh doesn’t look like an equitable city for those who have experienced years of racial discrimination and have been victimized by others with more voiced political power. These victimizers have historically and are currently grabbing land and pushing black and brown people out of their homes and communities.
How are some “progressives” in Raleigh, any better than conservative Republicans? At least we know where conservatives stand. Yet, some of these so-called progressive policies fail to center the voices of black and brown people, who are disproportionately affected by so many systems-one being housing. So called progressive policies around growth and development are inequitable because they have led to the mass displacement of black renters in downtown Raleigh. Black Middle Neighborhoods are on the edge of flipping to becoming exclusively white and their current residents are constantly harassed day and night by hungry investors.
Now Raleigh wants to use a handful of these ADUs that you call granny flats, for commercial use and short term rentals. What does renting a “granny flat” to someone looking for an Airbnb have to do with creating affordable housing for the poor or those with the most identified need for housing? “
Raleigh’s federally mandated Consolidated Plan states:
“The primary housing challenge for Raleigh’s low- and moderate-income residents remains housing affordability. Raleigh is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, and with this rapid growth has come rising land values and increased housing costs. Concurrently, incomes for lower-wage earners have failed to keep pace, with very-low (50% AMI) and extremely-low (30% AMI) income households being most affected. Racial and ethnic minorities, most notably African Americans, are disproportionately affected compared to Whites.”
Equity requires Raleigh to deal with its stated and identified issue around housing instead of just using this language in a HUD document to secure more HUD dollars and then using those same HUD dollars against the very people the dollars are supposed to help.
As it relates to the proposed affordable housing bond, the question remains #affordable4who? The draft bond is #notenough because there are no details on who the bond will help. Will it help the people who really need housing which are more people now because of this economic down turn caused by Covid-19. Or will this so called affordable housing bond help developers who wish to build housing unaffordable to the 30% and below? Again, equity ensures fair outcomes. If development policies aren’t ensuring that marginalized communities, low-wealth people of color with the most identified need for housing are helped—then there’s no equity here.”
Photo by Seasons4Photos
Columnist Courtney Napier echoed Yolanda Taylor’s concerns in this recent IndyWeek article: