The recent announcement that the Beaufort Housing Authority and WinnCompanies are planning a public-private partnership to construct 300-plus affordable housing units on 27 acres owned by the authority is very welcome news in a county where available housing—including for sale and for rent—is in extremely short supply.

The crisis is particularly acute for low- and moderate-income families, which is why the Beaufort announcement is important. Pricing for these units will be structured so that the amount of rent is based on the income of the tenant, which is possible due to federal tax credits to the private developer.

There are many hurdles to overcome before the project can be constructed, but the town commissioners have expressed strong support, which bodes well for the project to become reality.

In the western end of the county, Cape Carteret and Cedar Point have also approved zoning changes that will allow townhome construction on properties previously zoned for single family and business uses, respectively. While these units will be market-based, this is nonetheless positive news for a county facing a shortage of available housing and a surge in single family home prices.

Townhomes offer higher densities than single-family subdivisions, and construction costs are generally cheaper than stand-alone single-family homes, meaning more buyers will be able to afford these units.

Unfortunately, a study released last year by Bowen National Research that examined Carteret County’s housing inventory, demand and prices, suggests that Carteret County’s housing needs far exceed the supply of new housing currently available and in the pipeline. The study, funded by the Carteret County Economic Development Foundation, Carteret County Association of REALTORS, Duke Energy and Beau Coast, found that Carteret County’s average housing prices are higher than the state average, and that there is virtually no available inventory of apartments for rent, while demand continues to grow rapidly. The shortage is particularly acute for affordable/workforce housing.

There are new apartment units under construction in Morehead City and elsewhere but they are market-based, with most rentals exceeding $1,000/mo. for a one-bedroom unit and $1,500/mo. for two-bedroom units. These rental rates are beyond the reach of many Carteret County residents.

The Bowen study reported that in 2020 nearly 8,000 families in Carteret County were cost-burdened by their housing costs, defined as having rents or mortgage payments exceeding 30% of family income. Of those families that were cost-burdened, 3,169 were renters and 4,751 were owners.

The Bowen National Research team in 2020 surveyed the property management companies responsible for 1,919 apartment units in Carteret County and found that there were only 5 vacant/available units in the entire county, all of which were market rate.

All government subsidized (Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers) and tax credit housing (similar to what is proposed in Beaufort) were 100% occupied. At the time of the survey, Carteret Community Action reported that 131 families were on a waiting list for housing vouchers.

In the two years since the data was collected for the study, the demand for Carteret County housing at every price point has increased, including housing for rent and for sale. At the same time, Carteret County, and much of North Carolina, has seen a dramatic rise in housing prices.

Although there has been some moderation in price increases in recent months as the nation teeters on recession and mortgage and construction lending rates have more than doubled, housing inventory in Carteret County remains very low, with affordable/workforce housing bordering on nonexistent.

Supply and demand drives market rates for existing homes, and with low inventory and strong demand for coastal area properties expected to continue to increase, housing price reductions for existing housing seem unlikely. The costs of new construction are also likely to continue to increase, as land, building supplies, appliances and labor all continue to rise significantly making new homes unaffordable for many buyers.

Construction of I-42 continues, with the Havelock Bypass and James City improvements expected to be completed within two years reducing travel times between Carteret County and the Research Triangle Region. The Raleigh-Durham market is the second fastest growing metro area in America. That growth coupled with easy access to our beaches because of these highway improvements will increase demand for coastal property in Carteret County and surrounding counties further driving up housing costs.

Carteret County’s housing crisis impacts all county residents. High prices and the lack of available housing is making it more difficult for people to afford to live here. And it doesn’t only impact low- and moderate-income workers. It impacts the county’s ability to attract new teachers, nurses, and even highly compensated professionals such as doctors. And the impacts on construction, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, and food service employers are particularly acute, as evidenced by the help wanted signs that now appear on virtually every storefront and business.

The challenges are obvious and will only get worse absent imaginative and urgent solutions. County and municipal leaders need to engage the public now to find solutions before the problem become too costly to solve.

(11) comments

David Collins

If you really care about your community and hear the words “ section 8 housing “ RUN . Normally minimally constructed , poorly maintained , poorly managed and jammed in high and tight . Real estate rental folks and absentee owners love them due to guaranteed income , by the taxpayers , no matter what happens . Most residents could care less because it is free or almost free and often load the units up with “ stay about’s “ or free livers . The big cities are full of these things and some are rather legendary for what goes on in these “Projects” .

So , here we go again . No shortage of bad ideas that have failed time after time to dredge up . Misguided government is good for that but things will be different this time . Will it not ? After all , it sounds so kind , warm and fuzzy . What could possibly go amiss ?

drewski

I am not sure there is a solution. Multi family housing increases density and profit. Not makes affordable housing.

Low income housing is actually subsided by the tax payer and often comes with social ills.

What happened in the past is what will happen in the future, the working poor will be forced out. Live remotely, and longer commutes for their low paying jobs. Perhaps a decades long policy of tourism as only economic engine for the county was short sighted?

dc

Everybody needs affordable housing whether rent or own but supply and demand obviously precludes it especially around large cities. So, why do so many especially those in govt and business promote growth in areas that don't want nor need it? Couldn't have anything to do with monetary enrichment could it? It certainly doesn't enrich our environment and way of life. Maybe if we had fewer highways and bridges here and more destined towards the large cities?

mpjeep

One of the platforms that I agreed with Katie Tomberlin, who ran for Dist 13 in Carter County, was her position on housing in our county: “affordable housing” is not actually “affordable,” and we should continue to grow “income-based” housing.

Yea, I know what some are thinking: just another socialist program. The fact is, we have dual elements of socialism and capitalism in our country.

the secret life of man

For being a republican county (in my humble opinion) it certainly has a democrat behavior.Our County goes from little available housing to almost section 8.I'm sorry our county/cities leaders see this as a opportunity to make money on the backs of the ghettos emptying out because mainly of crime and taxes.Be prepared for all infrastructure (police, fire, emergency services support to increase.Stomwater runoff,and sewer impacts for allowing this type of expansion.

David Collins

The county leadership sees increased tax revenue , their bread and butter , and only tax revenue . By now they have figured out there will only be more giveaways coming down the road from old bungles . They are probably correct . Jump on what you can get now and let someone else worry about the consequences later .

Here we go again!

There's always room for more RV parks, right?

HJM92

I see a lot of ignorance in some of these comments. First off, income-based housing is not necessarily the same as low-income/section 8 housing. Many income-based options have both a maximum income limit as well as a minimum required income to live there.

I've been saying for years that the biggest issue facing this county is a lack of available housing for the folks in the middle. We have a number of lower-income options and plenty of options for the higher income crowd; what we lack are enough options for the folks in between. And last I checked that's a pretty solid majority of the county. The homes that should be available for these folks are being bought up by out-of-towners as vacation homes and/or rental properties.

The real estate market is insane right now. National problems such as inflation (not to mention global supply chain issues) certainly have contributed to this but this has been a problem for Carteret county long before these things were major national problems.

The way I see it there are two primary reasons for the problem; the first are the out-of-towners coming in from areas with much higher median income levels and artificially inflating the market by buying second/third homes and rental properties. The second is that the local economy is far too reliant on tourism, which may bring a lot of money to the area and does create jobs, but not the type of jobs that pay well enough for locals to be able to compete with the influx of outsiders with much higher incomes and more money to spend.

The sad part is, as the author of the editorial states, this is only going to get worse with the completion of I-42.

David Collins

As I see this is you have a market based housing market or a government mandated housing issuance scheme . Looking where this has been tried before , which would you prefer after considering the possible scenarios .

Retire22

I agree with HJM92. Less than 5 years ago,I could have afforded a house in Carteret County. It's out of the picture now. The rich have kicked the middle class out.

David Collins

While folks with more money in their pockets to spend does drive up prices , there is another factor . Our NC wind and hail policy arrived today . Just $100 shy of $5,000 to insure the roof . Add this puppy to the cost of ownership and the reasons for the for sale signs takes on new meaning . Paradise just costs a bit more .

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