City of W-S Is Breaking The Bank To Redevelop The Budget Inn

The City’s pricetag for the Flats at Peters Creek has risen steadily over the years. From a modest $15,000 (2016) for a study that got the project off the ground to $1.2 million (Forsyth County paid half of the $1.2 mil) to obtain the former Budget Inn property (2019). Then Shalom and its development partners returned to the City Council, hat in hand, and got an additional $500,000 in 2022. Monday at the City Council meeting, The Shalom and its partners are set to get millions more from the W-S City Council. That’s well over $3 million for 62 housing units (16 of which are truly affordable) in a city with an affordable housing deficit of well over 16,000.

2016 Letter

“We will not be able to fund every project that comes to us with gap funding. Did ya’ll hear me in the back? We will not be able to do that. We do not have that kind of money.”

-DD Adams, Finance Committee, 2/14/2023

The City is breaking the bank to redevelop the Budget Inn site at Peters Creek and Academy. The Flats at Peters Creek’s ever-evolving price tag is reminiscent of the City’s ballpark debacle a decade and a half ago. The simplest and most cost-effective way to redevelop the old Budget Inn would have been for the City to rehab the old motel and convert it into emergency housing. If the City of W-S were serious about housing people instead of collecting housing studies, they would have quickly converted the old Budget Inn into emergency housing. Instead, they’re building workforce housing that might lead to gentrification on the other side of Academy Street.

Just like in the case of the Watkins Street ballpark, the City is again partnering with an inexperienced developer, and it’s costing taxpayers dearly. But even more distressing than the pricetag, the Budget Inn redevelopment illustrates how the City of W-S has mishandled affordable housing. They’ve been slow, gradual, and inefficient in building and preserving affordable housing, and working people in Winston are paying the price.

The Shalom Project folks are not bad people. Quite the opposite, in fact. They are doing a wealth of good deeds at Green Street Methodist Church. Their efforts to redevelop the old Budget Inn site are not sinister, but they are self-serving, in my opinion. The Flats at Peters Creek will make Shalom a bonafide community developer. Shalom will join the ranks of SG Atkins CDC, Goler CDC, Ujima CDC, and other non-profits the City of Winston-Salem has generously financed in recent years.

But for all the good that Shalom and Green Street Methodist do by providing charity for residents in West Salem, the City of Winston-Salem has a vastly larger budget and resources. The City could do much more than it currently does to house the houseless, prevent evictions, and help the most vulnerable among us. If the City weren’t constantly subsidizing the rich and funneling funds into Wake Downtown, Winston’s affordable housing problem would not be a crisis.

The principal issue that I have with Shalom, apart from the millions of tax dollars they are getting from the City (and County), is their close relationship with the City of Winston-Salem. Partnering with the City of Winston-Salem has silenced a once powerful voice. Before the Shalom Project got off the ground a decade ago, Green Street Methodist was home to CHANGE.

CHANGE (Communities Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment) was an activist group that led a coalition of local congregations, a union of congregations if you will. It’s debatable how much change CHANGE actually accomplished. But their efforts certainly caused a stir at the time.

CHANGE Listed On The City’s Website (Date Unknown)

CHANGE got the attention of local politicians in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County. The City of W-S actually put CHANGE’s reports and audits on its homepage at one point. But I don’t believe that CHANGE ever publicly questioned the City’s subsidization of downtown development. CHANGE, to my knowledge, didn’t even criticize the Watkins Street ballpark built a stone’s throw from its base at Green Street Methodist.

After a decade of organizing and agitating, CHANGE, the flawed but potentially potent force in local politics, faded away. Ryan Eller, its chief organizer, left the organization in 2012 (W-S Journal). Managing an informal coalition of church congregations with different demographics and different priorities was difficult, if not impossible, in the long run. With CHANGE long gone, we still have The Minister’s Conference. But the ministers have a habit of standing behind the Mayor instead of standing up to him.

10 Years of Change-Yes Weekly
Ten Years Of Change
CHANGE didn’t accept government funds. It operated on a shoestring budget and sometimes had deficits. Shalom doesn’t have that problem. They take government funds at every opportunity. Since CHANGE folded and Shalom got up and running, no one associated with Shalom and/or Green Street has used their voice to criticize the City of Winston-Salem or pushed them to prioritize the needs of the poor.

It’s sad that Green Street Methodist and its related community non-profit subsidiaries have gone from demanding change to asking for checks. But an organization that needs six and seven-figure checks from the City is not in a position to question it.

Wayback Machine Data Shows How CHANGE Peaked In 2012, The Same Year Shalom Got Online.

CHANGE Quarterly Report-Summer 2011

Faith & Politics-Yes Weekly

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