Tour shows good, bad of city housing
From boarded-up blight in core city neighborhoods to gleaming new apartments in north High Point, a Thursday bus tour provided an unflinching look at the state of housing in the city.
The High Point Housing Coalition sponsored the tour in partnership with the city, High Point University, Partners Ending Homelessness and the High Point YWCA.
Officials leading the tour highlighted several issues, including what they termed an “affordable housing crisis” in the city.
Nearly four out of 10 High Point households struggle with housing costs under the federal definition of affordability, devoting more than 30 percent of their income to housing.
Richard Fuqua, affordable housing manager for the city’s Community Development and Housing Department, said that, although the housing market is showing signs of recovery, more people are being driven into the rental market because they struggle to qualify for mortgage loans.
During 2011, more than half of all renters in the city paid in excess of the federal definition of the fair-market monthly rent of $681 for a two-bedroom apartment.
“The market for rental housing has increased significantly, and with that has come an increase in rents,” said Fuqua. “With incomes not increasing at the same rate, we find that more people are having a harder time meeting those housing needs.”
Rents are increasing in spite of a growing backlog of decaying houses in some parts of the city.
Katherine Bossi, local codes enforcement supervisor for High Point, said the city has about 300 active minimum housing cases. The tour visited two of them on English Road that are being demolished at city expense because the owner had no funds to do the work themselves. The city has few tools to compel property owners to bring their houses up to code, other than placing liens on the property for the cost of demolition or other repairs.
Many properties are tied up in foreclosure and/or have no clear owner, which makes it difficult to determine who is responsible for upkeep. Demolition crews on Thursday were loading the remains of 1114 W. English Road — which was destroyed by fire right after it was purchased by the owner, who had no insurance — into a dump truck. Bossi said it will probably fall to the city to keep the grass cut once the site is cleared.
“The bad part of that is, we’re stuck with a vacant lot now that we will probably have to maintain,” she said. “Demolition is our last resort. We would prefer the property be restored. We are seeing property owners with more funds to make repairs.”
The tour also showed many aspects of the brighter side of housing in the city, including examples in the Macedonia and Southside neighborhoods, where the city has acquired dozens of sites previously occupied by dilapidated houses and turned them over to nonprofit builders for new construction.
Included in the positives was Admiral Pointe, a 54-unit apartment complex that opened in December off of Samet Drive that serves older residents who earn 40 to 60 percent of the area median income.
Affordable housing successes in the Washington Street neighborhood were highlighted, where Habitat for Humanity of High Point, Archdale and Trinity has built more than 10 homes for families in recent years.
“I’ve been impressed at the housing we’re providing for people in our community, but I’ve also been disppointed in the housing that I’ve seen that’s boarded up and the very small houses people are living in that are substandard,” said High Point Housing Coalition Chairman Steve Key. “There’s ways that we can bring housing into our community, but it takes all of us to get together and support programs like Habitat for Humanity and programs the city and housing authority are doing.”