Salisbury Fair Housing Committee finalizes draft for first City Council presentation

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 10, 2019

By Samuel Motley

SALISBURY – During its third meeting Thursday, the city’s Fair Housing Committee discussed final revisions to a draft of the 2019 analysis of impediments to access to fair housing.

“We know (the project of improving fair housing) is an elephant. It is an elephant, and it’s an old elephant,” said Anne Little, the city’s human relations manager. But “we can look at the elephant and determine which pieces of it we want to start working on.”

The 2019 analysis comes in response to Salisbury’s classification as an entitlement community. That means, first, that the city currently receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the Community Development Block Grant program.

The grant program is used “to assist low- and moderate-income residents of Salisbury through the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing,” said Kyle Harris, a Salisbury city planner. The city is expecting $320,000 for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

In return, Salisbury must comply with the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act, which says entitlement communities need to work to improve access to housing.

The analysis serves as the city’s first step in demonstrating compliance.

The recommendations made in the analysis are aimed at eliminating and reducing barriers, said Victoria Avramovic, assistant director for community and economic development at the Centralina Council of Governments.

The analysis is routine and is done every three to five years, she said.

The findings in the analysis are important, Little said. HUD will use them to “hold our feet to the fire,” she said. The accountability is “based on the impediments that we find and based on the actions that we say we are going to take.”

The updated draft lists five impediments:

• Lack of a formalized structure for a local fair housing system.

• Insufficient supply of adequate and affordable housing to meet the growing needs of low- and moderate-income residents, including members of protected classes.

• Public transportation limitations reduce housing choice for low- to moderate-income residents and special-needs population.

• Lack of access to housing that accommodates special populations.

Avramovic played down the effectiveness of public funding — which includes the HUD grant — saying public funding will only supplement the city’s affordable housing program going forward.

“Public dollars will never be able to do what needs to be done in the affordable housing sector,” she said.

However, Avramovic added words of hope that long-term goals can be achieved through policies that incentive private developers to spend their money, she said. Cities will need to work in tandem with the private sector to find “creative developments,” she added.

This includes showing investors, Avramovic added, that Salisbury has opportunity for low-income housing tax credits; that North Carolina “underutilizes” affordable housing bills; and that the state is a federally designated “opportunity zone.”

After the first council presentation, set for May 21, the draft discussed at Thursday’s meeting will be open to comments for a 30-day period between May 27 and June 25. The comments will be incorporated into the analysis and resubmitted to the City Council for final approval on July 16.

The deadline to submit the report to HUD is July 19.

Editor’s note: This story was updated May 13 to state Salisbury uses CDBG funding to assist low- and moderate-income residents of Salisbury through the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing. The story incorrectly stated the use of funding. We apologize for the error.