The Greensboro City Council commissioned a report on affordable housing in April 2019 and, at a virtual work session on Tuesday, Aug. 18, received the report and the estimated cost to implement it of $50 million.

According to the “Housing GSO Creating Opportunities to Build A Better Community” report produced by HR&A, the City of Greensboro for $50 million can get a start on solving the affordable housing issue in Greensboro, but $50 million is not going to come close to solving the problem.

One point Phil Kash from HR&N made is that neighborhood stabilization efforts don’t work unless they can be concentrated in a few neighborhoods where at least 8 percent of the homes in the neighborhood are touched by the program. He said that studies had shown that if that 8 percent mark is reached then there is a much better chance that the people in the neighborhood will get involved in their own efforts to bring the neighborhood back and new homes will be built by private entities.

Kash also said that choosing the neighborhoods was critical because it needed to be a neighborhood that is at risk but had some market potential.

HR&A suggested five neighborhoods in Greensboro for the program: the Mill District, Kings Forest, Dudley Heights, Random Woods and Glenwood. The estimated cost of “touching” one in 12 out of 1,500 housing units was $4.5 million spent over a five-year period.

The city currently has a down payment assistance program to help first time homebuyers but HR&N suggested that it be expanded to include no interest, no payment loans to families whose incomes were too high to qualify for a grant or forgivable loan but needed help making a down payment.

According to the HR&N plan, the loan would not come due until the house was sold.

One problem with rental housing that Kash noted was common in communities all over the country was that rents were rising faster than incomes, particularly at the low-income level. Kash said that one of the factors is that there is a deficit of affordable rental units and in a capitalistic system the price of a scarce commodity goes up.

The City Council had a brief discussion on the lengthy report but because less than an hour was scheduled for the report presentation and discussion, the discussion was perfunctory at best. Kash kept apologizing for rushing through the report, but he did manage to finish.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan asked that an additional work session be scheduled for the City Council to discuss the HR&N report in more detail. Why a report that had taken 16 months to prepare was allotted so little time for discussion was not discussed.