As partial government shutdown continues, affordable housing concerns rise

As partial government shutdown continues, affordable housing concerns rise
Wilmington City Council chambers were packed Thursday morning as the Cape Fear Housing Coalition held a legislative breakfast (WECT).

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - In the wake of Hurricane Florence, the need for more affordable housing took center stage.

With the government shutdown nearing the end of its fourth week, concerns continue to grow.

The Cape Fear Housing Coalition hosted a legislative breakfast Thursday morning to discuss affordable housing, and to try to provide avenues for leaders and others to attempt to address the need.

After Florence, the limited quantity of affordable rentals created an acute need with more people looking for affordable housing options than the market had available. Layer that with the growing evidence that the opioid crisis and toxic stress are contributing to homelessness and the inability of low-income individuals to find adequate housing, and the government keeping people from their paychecks, and the issue brought out a full crowd to the Wilmington City Council chambers.

Those were the issues presented by Scott Whisnant of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, former Houston Vice Mayor Sue Lovell, and Executive Director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition Samuel Gunter.

While the other issues are long-term, Gunter said people need to treat the ongoing government shutdown with urgency.

As we move into February, Gunter said, housing authorities are going to start running out of money, meaning those with housing choice vouchers will run out of options.

“That’s going to have an incredible impact,” Gunter said.

Additionally, the programs that spawn housing developments are at risk, as is the private housing market. If low-income borrowers who would utilize a USDA or FHA loan aren’t able to close on a home, they could lose eligibility and be stuck.

The money is there, Gunter said. It’s the signatures and approvals from officials that are holding up the process.

The shutdown also puts federal workers at risk of a housing crisis since missing two or three paychecks could mean missing a rent payment or two, leading to evictions and future housing problems.

“If you are on the lower end of the income range, there is no wiggle room,” he said.

Gunter suggested those in the audience contact Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr and urge them to act on the shutdown.

For a long-term solution, Gunter said places like Wilmington need to make affordable housing a priority, even though it may be unpopular politically.

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