Wake County Affordable Housing Crisis

The house of Matt Wiener, a sophomore at Leesville Road High School. This is an average house model in the north Raleigh suburban community. (Photo used by permission of Matt Wiener)The house of Matt Wiener, a sophomore at Leesville Road High School. This is an average house model in the north Raleigh suburban community. (Photo used by permission of Matt Wiener)

Wake County is the second most rapidly growing county in the United States, with a 12% cumulative growth rate in the past five years. It goes without saying that an influx of residents requires the building of new places for said residents to live — Wake County is also a national leader in development. So, with enough housing being built to match incoming residents, what could be the problem?

The problem is that the majority of housing being built is meant to support upper middle and higher class families. This is becoming an all too common trend — a dangerous one, with seemingly no end. With no affordable housing being built, there is no place for middle and lower income residents to reasonably live. This begs the question: where will everyone else live?

Approximately 91,000 Wake County families spend more than a third of their paycheck on housing alone–and this number is constantly on the rise. Wake loses roughly 500 affordable homes annually. With the rapid expansion of the county, the number of people who can’t afford housing will only swell. If such a massive number of residents are barely able to afford housing, how can they be expected to pay for everything else, and what does that mean for the local economy?

Resident’s full attention will be on housing payments and they will be reluctant to spend their hard earned money. With more than a fourth of our population holding tightly to their money, we forfeit an enumerable amount of productivity and slam the brakes on our economy–the boom created by building these expensive homes will be totally eclipsed by the crash of the housing crisis.

On average, Wake County households make roughly $72,000 annually–a respectable middle class income. The median price of homes listed in Wake County is currently $343,990 with each square foot of land totaling $139. How exactly with all of today’s everyday expenses, can a family making $72,000 be expected to reasonably pay off a house that costs nearly $344,000?

Our current condition is unreasonable and favors wealthy residents with no sign of slowing. In the last ten years alone, for sale housing prices have jumped up by 19% and rental prices have skyrocketed up by 35%.

As it stands now, we have placed ourselves in an unsustainable position that will only worsen within the next ten years. The statistics are horrifying. and there have been very few moves to correct them. Wake County is going through a massive growth spurt and needs to work out the kinks quickly because if it doesn’t, we’ll be welcoming our new residents with economic depression, general disarray, and a record shattering homeless rate.

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