Groups that want to provide more affordable housing locally appear unlikely to receive any of the $7.8 million they’ve requested in coronavirus relief funds from the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.
County administrators are recommending the referral of the requests from the various groups to the city of Winston-Salem, on the grounds that the city, not the county, has traditionally provided most housing assistance here.
Commissioners are expected to ratify that decision in a vote Thursday that also authorizes an anti-gang effort from the county sheriff’s office, but defers requests from community groups that had hoped to mount street-level efforts to reduce crime.
Richard Angino, the founder of Folks for Good Housing, said he’s worried the county decision could put housing needs on the back burner at a critical time.
“We have all been working on trying to address affordability in housing,” Angino said. “We actually were encouraged to apply. We put in three applications.”
Housing is considered affordable when the occupants pay no more than 30% of their gross income for it. According to Winston-Salem officials, a 2018 comprehensive study found that the city had a 16,000 deficit in units of affordable housing, with people in the lower income brackets taking the hardest hit.
The provision of more affordable housing was a major component of the American Rescue Plan Act, known as ARPA, passed by Congress earlier this year to give wide-ranging relief to sectors of the economy affected by the pandemic.
Winston-Salem officials say they’re aware of all the housing requests before the county, and that the same groups may eventually come in for some city money when the city decides on how to spend its own stimulus pile.
In a bind
That won’t help Charlie Heritage, the managing partner of South Creek Development, which asked the county for up to $2 million to cover the gap between money lined up for an affordable housing apartment complex and the expected cost during this period of escalating building costs.
Heritage’s project is in Lewisville. Lewisville plans to spend all its ARPA money on utilities, according to Hank Perkins, the town manager.
And that could leave Heritage scrambling to find money to do phase two of Pegram Landing, a 60-unit affordable housing complex off Styers Ferry Road that would double in size if the second phase moves forward.
“Phase one leased out in two months, when normally it would take six to eight months,” Heritage said. “The demand for this type of housing is great. My project is shovel-ready. The only thing stopping it is trying to find additional funds to fill this gap.”
It will be disappointing if he can’t move forward on the project, he said.
“I did spend some time and effort pulling things together,” he said.
When Forsyth County opened its application process for its $74-million share of ARPA money, seven groups applied to provide more affordable housing.
*MTB3 Properties LLC requested $700,000 to help develop the Ram’s Point apartments and retail space on vacant land at 310 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
*The Peters Creek Community Initiative asked for $2.8 million to help a plan to build 74 units of affordable housing at the corner of Peters Creek Parkway and Academy Street, on the site of the former Budget Inn.
*Third Wave Developer LLC asked for $320,000 for a loan program to help six homebuyers acquire homes in Ivy Court, a 42-unit new construction townhouse community that would be built in the Slater Avenue area.
*Third Wave Housing LLC asked for $160,000 for a similar loan program that would held at least three homebuyers to acquire homes in North East Village, a nine-home new construction cottage court community planned for the Ogburn Station area.
*South Creek Development wanted $2 million to close the gap between initial estimated costs of $7.8 million and newer estimates of $9.5 million, for the second phase of Pegram Landing in Lewisville.
*Stone Terrace, a Habitat for Humanity project, has requested $609,000 to complete a road network in the development.
*Ujima Community Development Corp. has requested $1.5 million to build 10 duplex units in five buildings in the City View area.
Angino’s three projects are the two Third Wave proposals and the plan to build affordable housing at Peters Creek Parkway and Academy Street.
Eileen Ayuso is the director of the Shalom Project, a nonprofit that’s behind the Peters Creek Community Initiative. She said that her group needs support from both the city and county to advance more affordable housing projects.
“It needs to be a comprehensive effort,” she said. “Not all of the housing that is needed is within the city boundaries. Winston-Salem is the biggest part of the county, so why not support housing for the constituents?”
While the county invited applicants to submit their requests, Winston-Salem officials are pursuing a different path toward the eventual spending of $30 million for affordable housing: $20 million from ARPA funds, and $10 million in the most recent state budget.
The city is expected to ask companies and groups interested in working on affordable housing to respond to requests for proposals sometime next year, once city leaders decide how they want to go about spending the money.
In the meantime, Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts said he’s heard no voices from the seven-member board of commissioners wanting to reconsider the decision by county administrators to forward housing proposals to Winston-Salem or Lewisville.
While the county has occasionally participated in housing projects on the affordable end of the spectrum, county officials said, typically those have been in partnership with Winston-Salem.
The county has also taken part in programs to help first-time home buyers, and housing rehabilitation for low- and moderate-income residents.
“Historically, we have left the affordable-housing arena to the municipalities,” Watts said. “They get substantial dollars for housing and do bonds for housing.”