How Many Housing Studies Does It Take To Build An Apartment?

“How many housing studies does it take to build an apartment? I’m counting [that] this is the fourth study, not the third. And if we approve $322,000, we are approaching 1 million dollars spent on housing studies…”

-Councilmember Robert Clark, 8/8/2022

The Winston-Salem City Council’s lone Republican dropped a bomb on August 8th. The Winston-Salem City Council has a talent for commissioning expensive housing studies. But they are lousy when it comes to implementing housing studies. As developers (with the City’s blessing) have pushed rents through the roof, the WSNC City Council has failed to address the affordable housing crisis in our city.

December 2018 study found that Winston-Salem had “a 16,244-unit shortage
of affordable and available units for lower income households.”

-Spring  2019, Winston-Salem was one of three cities that were awarded a ForEveryoneHome grant from Grounded Solutions Network that provided $150,000 worth of technical assistance over 18 months to help mixed-market cities like ours “chart a path to inclusive growth through lasting affordability.” The City provided $75,000 in matching funds for the project. The full City Council adopted the ForEveryoneHome final report and authorized implementation of the report’s policy recommendations in June 2021.

ForEveryoneHome contained a three-step process: a needs assessment, then policy agenda, and finally, policy implementation. Allen Joines and the City Council, after taking their sweet time with phase 1 and phase 2, have failed to embrace an actual implementable affordable housing policy with the urgency that the affordable housing crisis demands.

“So our hope is to not just end up with another study on the shelf, but an actual policy that can get adopted locally and make a difference.”

-Matt Weber, Grounded Solutions, predicting what the City of Winston-Salem would do with his data and analysis.

ForEveryoneHome initiative-… by CP Tew

November 2019 study examined VAD (vacant, abandoned, and distressed properties in Winston-Salem and outlined how VAD properties could be converted into safe, affordable housing units. VAD properties have been a huge issue in our city for decades. We have an aging housing stock (reflecting the boom days of Camel City a century ago). The City spends a pretty penny bulldozing substandard housing units. But has been slow to adopt a mechanism to convert at-risk houses into affordable homes.

August 2022, the City Council adopted a $322,000 housing study that won’t add desperately needed affordable housing units in our city anytime soon. The new housing study was recommended by the Affordable Housing Task Force. Paul Norby, a former City Planner that played an instrumental role in the City’s promotion of over-priced downtown apartments was one of the advocates for the City’s new housing study.

Another curious aspect of the new housing study and master plan the City recently commissioned is that it is outsourced to a New Orleans housing group that Community Development Director Marla Newman brought up with her from New Orleans.

But hey, “a million dollars here, a million dollars there, pretty soon you are making real progress.” That was what Allen Joines and his downtown development alliance told us years ago. The unaffordable luxury apartments that ring DTWS are the fruit of the Alliance’s efforts. We need new leadership and a bold, progressive pro-worker, pro-renter agenda to address affordable housing in our city. And we also need significant help from the General Assembly and Congress.

Millenium Fund Jan 2012

The work Grounded Solutions did for our city was a call to action. Their data is powerful. Below is a presentation and slides from the ForEveryoneHome project.


@winstonwatchmanHow many housing studies does it take to build an apartment?♬ original sound – WinstonWatchman

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