Business Parks Are City Of W-S’ Business, Not Affordable Housing

John Railey wrote an excellent article last week in The Chronicle. Railey criticized the City of Winston-Salem for spending hundreds of thousands on housing studies but failing to implement policy recommendations from those rather costly studies. That’s a criticism I have been making against the City for some time now.

It’s unbelievable that the City of W-S has the knowledge and know-how to increase Winston’s affordable housing stock. But still, they have failed to establish a comprehensive, affordable housing plan. If I didn’t know better, I would think that the City’s Mayor is getting paid by Winston’s wealthy developers, he’s advancing their interests and ignoring the rest of us.

That’s precisely what happens daily in Winston, where most folks believe that “there are no conflicts of interest.” Allen Joines forgoes his salary from the City of W-S and takes a six-figure salary from the Winston-Salem Alliance. The Winston-Salem Alliance is a secretive business development organization that doesn’t list its members or issue any reports. The W-S Alliance’s development deals frequently find their way onto City Council agendas. And the W-S Alliance always gets what it wants, and what it wants is public dollars to finance its private developments in the name of the public good.


“What we said from the outset is that we would never ask the local government for money, and that we would be totally transparent in everything we did so there would be no conflicts…” –Allen Joines

Back to the issue of affordable housing, a city-commissioned study says Winston has an affordable housing deficit of over 16,000 units. To address the problem, the City got Sen. Paul Lowe to pass SB 145, a state law allowing the City to establish a community land trust. And the City Council passed the Housing Justice Act to implement SB 145. But the City has failed to build and preserve affordable housing in WSNC. They have ignored Happy Hill’s pleas to establish a land trust in historic Happy Hill. Sadly, the City of W-S has shown that it can appropriate the term “housing justice” from local activists, but it’s not committed to promoting housing justice.

By contrast to the City of Winston-Salem’s failure to develop affordable housing and community land trusts, it has a solid track record of land banking for developers (Brookwood Business Park being the exception). The City, under Mayor Joines, has been developing business parks for two decades. It’s insane that the City can woo a desirable German manufacturer and get them to relocate from Greensboro to the southeast corner of WS/FC. But they can’t do a better job coordinating their housing policies?

Look at all the coordinated efforts and resources that laid the foundation for WSNC landing Ziehl-Abegg. The Winston-Salem Alliance (Allen Joines’ paying job) turned the former radar base land along Union Cross and Wallburg Roads into a business park in 2003. Some years after that, the City annexed the Union Cross community, despite its rural character. That gave the City firm control over planning and zoning around the business park.

Exhibit B - City Investment Letter
Front Street And The City
The Mayor’s right-hand man, Bob Leak, ran Union Cross Business Park for years. Mr. Leak has since moved on to Whitaker Park. The City has pumped millions into that business park on the Davidson County line over the years. The City attracted Dell, Caterpillar, and Herbalife. In each case (I think?), the W-S Alliance purchased land along Union Cross to benefit said corporations.

-Triad Business Journal

In the case of Ziehl-Abegg, the City approved subsidies for Ziehl-Abegg. But what appears to have sold the deal was the land the City could offer the Germans. The City purchased the property between Caterpillar and Glenn High School. They then sold the land to Front Street Capital, the City’s favorite business partner. Front Street is working with Ziehl-Abegg to develop Ziehl-Abegg’s North American headquarters adjacent to Glenn.

I’m not a fan of the City subsidizing corporations. But I must admit that the City is pretty good at attracting businesses. However, they’ll never find a replacement for the manufacturing jobs that Hanes and Reynolds shed in recent decades.

The City of W-S’s problem doesn’t appear to be competence. It’s commitment. If the City devoted the same resources to affordable housing that it does to business recruitment, we would not have a housing crisis in Winston-Salem today. Or at least the crisis would not be as bad. But as long as the Mayor is in the pocket of the local ruling elite, we can’t expect the City to prioritize the needs of the working class.

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