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Hope for housing

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By Ret Boney

A diverse coalition of state and local leaders and organizations have joined forces to push for more state funding for affordable housing.

The coalition, known as the Campaign for Housing Carolina, is supporting a bill to increase to $50 million from $3 million the allocation to the Housing Trust Fund, money used to build affordable housing for low-income and disabled people.

Made up of 20 statewide and 40 local groups, the coalition includes the N.C. Bankers Association, N.C. Homebuilders Association, N.C. Realtors Association, United Way of North Carolina, North Carolina Housing Coalition and N.C. Justice Center.

The bill is supported by a bipartisan group of 46 lawmakers, almost evenly divided between parties, and has been referred to the appropriations committee for consideration.

“The number one issue in my district is the availability of housing,” says Wilma Sherrill, a Republican House member from Buncombe County. “I don’t know of anywhere we could put our money to provide a bigger difference.”

Primary co-sponsors of the bill, which include legislative leaders like Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Tom Apodaca and former House Speaker Harold Brubaker, say increasing the fund not only will help provide housing for those who need it, but will spur development in the state.

They estimate increasing the fund to $50 million will help more than 6,000 families find affordable housing each year, create more than 3,000 jobs, generate $30 million in tax revenue and leverage $200 million in housing development.

Currently, some 2 million North Carolinians do not have housing they can afford, says Chris Estes, executive director of the N.C. Housing Coalition, and four in 10 renters do not make enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment at market rates.

“Fifty million dollars can change the complexion of this state completely,” says Barbara Goodmon, president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, a coalition member in Raleigh that publishes the Philanthropy Journal.

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