City of Wilmington Making Strides on Affordable Housing
In recent years, the City of Wilmington has grown in both popularity and population. This growth speaks to Wilmington’s desirability as a place to live, work, and play. It also presents challenges for city leadership, including preserving and creating affordable housing opportunities.
Two decades ago, the city committed to addressing affordable housing. In recent years, the Mayor and City Council doubled down on that commitment, funding a strategic mix of programs designed to cultivate new home ownership and create affordable rent opportunities. These programs leverage public funds to multiply their impact many times over by partnering with private sector and nonprofit organizations.
Underscoring this commitment, Council voted in August to donate a former city fire station to Good Shepherd Center to develop up to 33 permanent supportive housing units. This type of affordable housing is among the most difficult to develop because it serves vulnerable populations and involves wraparound social services to help individuals remain housed and live with dignity and respect.
Earlier this year, Council also voted to donate the proceeds from the sale of the former Optimist Park to affordable housing efforts, including Eden Village, a tiny home community that helps the chronically unhoused transition from the streets to stability in a safe and supportive environment.
Within the past year, Council also appropriated $3.5 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan funds to provide “gap financing” for Starway Village, with a planned 278 affordable rent apartments. Together with $1.8 million from New Hanover County, gap financing will multiply these public dollars 11-times over to an impact of approximately $60 million. Yet another recent Council vote moved Canopy Pointe forward, a 72-unit affordable housing community for seniors.
Council also recognizes the importance of home ownership so low-to-moderate income residents can share the same opportunity to build wealth and pass it on to their next generation. The city actively maintains a home loan portfolio of $6.2 million, with an additional $4 million ready to deploy for future home ownership loans. These funds are used to provide 0% interest loans to qualifying homebuyers. Together with down payment assistance and home rehabilitation loan programs, more than 700 Wilmington residents and families have achieved or maintained home ownership.
While these innovative programs help grow the city’s affordable housing stock, City Council also prioritized the building blocks for affordable quality of life when rewriting the city’s land development code last year. This code, which shapes the city’s physical development, provides new pathways and incentives for affordable housing that requires no public investment at all. The new code also encourages convenience to services and employment options, and easy access to efficient transportation, to support the city’s long-term affordability and livability.
The City of Wilmington’s investments in affordable housing over the past two decades now exceed $50 million. With the Mayor and City Council’s heightened focus, this commitment is yielding real results and greatly expanding our city’s promise of opportunity and affordable quality of life.
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Article is contributed by Tony Caudle, Wilmington City Manager. Tony Caudle was appointed Wilmington City Manager in 2021 and previously served as Deputy City Manager since 2008.