Mayor and Winston-Salem Alliance President Allen Joines has largely failed to maintain existing affordable housing units or produce new affordable housing units in Winston-Salem. As Joines has now been in office for 2o years. He is by far the longest-serving mayor in the twin city’s history. Through state and federal officials are also to blame, Joines bears great responsibility for the high levels of poverty, the shameful lack of economic mobility in Winston, and the city’s over 16,000 unit affordable housing deficit.
Joines has worked tirelessly to build back downtown Winston-Salem, and he’s succeeded modestly in that endeavor. But as Joines and the Winston-Salem City Council invested in the Nissen Building, Restaurant Row, the Benton Convention Center, the Innovation Quarter, and numerous other downtown properties, they’ve shortchanged affordable housing in the city. Projects such as the preservation of affordable housing units at Crystal Towers have been ignored by Joines. Housing Justice advocates have been given a cold shoulder.
The Mayor and Alliance President acknowledged the City’s failure on affordable housing back in October when he openly called for a Housing Czar to coordinate City Hall’s efforts to address affordable housing.
I thought affordable housing was the City of Winston-Salem’s top priority. Why isn’t Allen Joines waking up every morning thinking about addressing the affordable housing crisis in our city? Perhaps it’s because Joines’ employer, the Winston-Salem Alliance, isn’t seriously interested in affordable housing. For many of them, high rents-directly or indirectly are part of their business model.
“Winston-Salem suffers a 16,244-unit shortage of housing for extremely low-income households… 40,000 families throughout the county are rent burdened.”
–Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Housing Study and Needs Assessment, 2018
“So our hope is to not just end with here’s another study on the shelf, but an actual policy that can get adopted locally and make a difference.”
-Matt Weber, Grounded Solutions, foreshadows what the City of Winston-Salem would do with his data and analysis.
In the spring of 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 Winston “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: first 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. With the expertise of Grounded Solutions and the federal Covid Relief funds, now is the perfect time for the City to think big when it comes to affordable housing.
Here’s an extended excerpt from Matt Weber’s important July 2020 presentation to the City/County Planning Board that demonstrates how deeply divided our community is along racial, economic, and geographic lines:
The ForEveryoneHome initiative that I’m here to talk about today is one of our efforts to reach that goal of more inclusive communities. As Aaron said, it is an anti-displacement and inclusive growth initiative, aimed at mixed market cities. And that’s really kind of a key term for us. The entire initiative came from our experience, working in what people would call hot market cities, places where they’re just in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. And we get called in and asked to help solve that crisis for them. And that was hard.
One of our takeaways from that experience is that you really do need to start early, start before you hit crisis levels. The earlier you start, the more room there is to make an impact on those affordable housing needs. So we put together the ForEveryoneHome initiative, put out a call for applications, went through a competitive process to select participating cities. And Winston-Salem along with, San Antonio and Indianapolis where the three cities we selected to participate. And you can see there on your screen, the members of our local team, who’ve been working with us on the Winston-Salem effort. (ForEveryoneHome team members: Denise Adams, Marla Newman, Aaron King, James Perry, Paula McCoy)
There are three phases to the effort overall, a needs assessment phase, where we’re looking at what’s happening on the ground, what are those displacement pressures and needs. And I’m sharing with you some of the findings from that today.
Then the next phase is developing a policy agenda to respond to those needs that we found. We’re working on that now talking to a variety of stakeholders with various ideas to see what feels like it’s going to make the biggest difference locally. And then once we have kind of a consensus on that agenda picking, some item from that overall agenda and really diving down into the details so that we have an implementable policy. So our hope is to not just end with here’s another study on the shelf, but an actual policy that can get adopted locally and make a difference.
So as we go through this initiative, one of the values that’s particularly important to us is racial equity. And I wanted to share with you some of the analysis we’ve done on that topic. So the racial divide in Winston-Salem is relatively easy to see because a highway runs through it. Highway 52, very much is a demarcation line, as I’m sure you all know in Winston-Salem.
Neighborhoods in and around 52 and to the east of it tend to be mostly made up of households of color, and neighborhoods to the west tend to be predominantly white. And that’s basically what this map shows. What’s interesting or notable is even if we don’t put race on the map, we still see that same pattern. And so what you should be seeing now is a map of median home values in Winston Salem.
And we see a distinct pattern, those neighborhoods in and around Highway 52 and to the east have much lower home values. Those to the west, which are predominantly white neighborhoods have much higher home values. Same thing if we look at income, same kind of pattern. And I have a couple of other maps I’m not showing you. But the pattern, no matter what socioeconomic measures we put up there remains fairly solid and stable.
This map is actually, for me one of the most troubling ones in the entire presentation. It’s based on an analysis by the Census department, it’s their opportunity analysis. Crunching all the data available to them what they’ve done is projected into the future what a child growing up in any particular neighborhood in the city will earn in adulthood. And we see a very similar pattern as we saw on the previous slides. A child growing up on the east side of Winston Salem is projected to earn two, three, four, five times less than a child growing up on the west side of Winston-Salem. And I think for all of us, that kind of difference of where you grew up having such a big impact on your chances in life is just unacceptable.
Now, this racial divide in Winston-Salem has been around so long, I think it can kind of feel like it’s a natural thing. And so what I wanted to raise up here is that it’s not at all-natural. That, you know, individual bias and discrimination has played a role, but so too has government policy. Winston-Salem early on had a race-based zoning ordinance telling people where they could live based on the color of their skin. Widely used were racially restrictive covenants. So people would put into deeds, you know, reserving entire neighborhoods to white residents so that people of color were not allowed to live there. There were the federal redlining practices, which rated neighborhoods as too risky for banks to make loans in based on the presence of people of color in those neighborhoods.
And that had this insidious effect of, you know-white neighborhoods could get loans, fixed up houses, build new houses, neighborhoods of color couldn’t. Those houses declined. There wasn’t new construction. And so not only did it, you know, have physical impacts, it also impacted this wealth gap in ways that we continue to see today.
The GI bill, very similar kind of thing on its face available to all veterans. But because of where veterans could live and build houses, it allowed white veterans to build wealth while Black veterans could not. And of course, the Urban Renewal program was used on its face to deal with blight. But almost invariably was used to tear down neighborhoods that were predominantly neighborhoods of color. And Highway 52 itself is an Urban Renewal project that, you know, took away people’s homes, disrupted Black businesses, disrupted Black churches and other institutions that had become centers of strength for the community.
So all that is to say, we created that with public policy and the hope of course is that we can undo it with public policy as well. And so instead of focusing on that racial divide, I want us to talk a little bit about the racial equity dividend we would enjoy if we were able to close that gap. And Winston-Salem has been working on closing that gap.
What we’re doing with the ForEveryoneHome program, we hope will help move the needle further in that direction. But we’re not going to close it all the way with, just with this effort. But we do hope to make that gap smaller. And if we are able to close that gap, if homes in neighborhoods of color were worth as much as the median home value in predominantly white neighborhoods, Winston-Salem homeowners would have an additional $1.8 billion of wealth across the city.
Likewise, if income levels were equalized, we’d have another $705 million to spend in Winston-Salem to drive the economy, to support the schools, to improve our parks, and everything that folks love about Winston-Salem.
Again, in the longer presentation, I’ve got more slides on this, but the overall point is the same. There is a payoff for the whole community if we can make progress on this racial equity gap in the city.
Now I want to turn a little bit to the needs assessment that we’ve been doing and wanted I wanted to start with this slide because it responds to a comment we heard from a lot of folks when we were doing outreach. People talk a lot about housing today, that it feels more expensive, it’s less affordable than it used to be. This chart helps answer why. And what it shows us is that the reason why it feels less affordable, it isn’t so much because rents have gone up as it is that incomes have gone down.
So that orange line on top of the chart shows us the relative change in rents since the year 2000. And it shows us that we’re about 4% above where we were in 2000. All these numbers have been adjusted for inflation. So these are real income changes; real dollar changes in rents. Likewise, the number on the bottom is a percent change in median renter income. And we see that in that recession in the 2000s, income has fell significantly and it has just not recovered since then. We’ve seen an uptick in recent years, this goes through 2018. But we’re still well below where it was in 2000.
So housing feels less affordable because it is less affordable because folks have to spend more of their income on rent because they simply have less income to go around altogether. And that in itself is a racial equity concern because of who renters and who owners are in Winston-Salem. Nearly two-thirds of white households in Winston-Salem are homeowners. Among households of color that’s almost flipped about 61% of households of color are renters, and just 39% are owners.
So the housing cost burden that folks are experiencing falls more heavily on households of color than it does on white households. Because people are living so close to the edge economically Winston-Salem has a very high eviction rate.
And that is one of the statistics of concern, that I think, needs to get a bit more attention in the city because it, particularly with the COVID 19. We went into COVID-19 with an already high eviction rate, as the moratorium has come up. As some of those social supports fade away, I really worried about what that’s going to do to eviction rates down the road. So on this chart, we see we’re about third in the state for eviction rates among cities with a population over 50,000. If we look nationally at cities of roughly the same size as Winston-Salem, we come in sixth nationally. So we’ve got a very high eviction rate, no matter how you slice it.
Another analysis we did was looking at displacement pressures in Winston-Salem. So where are neighborhoods changing, relatively quickly and in a way that may be, pushing people out of neighborhoods or when they do leave, not allowing folks who used to be able to afford that neighborhood to move back in, or maybe they’re just not feeling welcome in that neighborhood anymore.
And to do that analysis, we’re following an analysis done by NALCAB, the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders. And they looked at four different indicators of neighborhood change. One is housing costs, either median home values or rents. Household income, the number of college graduates in the neighborhood, and the non-Hispanic white population. And so what we did was we looked at how those figures have changed between 2013 and 2018 for the city as a whole.
And then we compared for each individual neighborhood. Is it changing faster than the city as a whole? And if it is changing faster on any of those indicators, we gave it a score, a one for that particular indicator. And this map shows you, which neighborhoods came back with a score of either three or four on those indicators. The dark red on your screen shows you the four indicators that sort of lighter red are three indicators. What we see is the, a lot of the displacement pressure is centered in and around downtown Winston-Salem. Which probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many folks, but also on the outer edges of the city, we’re seeing some faster-changing neighborhoods than we might expect
So there are areas experiencing displacement pressures. And as we’re working on policy recommendations, we’re going to want to address those. Another analysis we did was looking at the loss of existing subsidized housing units.
So the brown dots on your screen on this map show you the location of all the subsidized housing developments that we could identify in Winston-Salem, across the city. And then whenever the government provides money for affordable housing that money comes with an affordability period that says you must keep this housing affordable for five years, 10 years, 15, maybe 30 years. At some point, that affordability period expires. So I’ve added a star to all of the properties where the affordability period is expected to expire sometime before 2026. As you can see on the screen, we actually have quite a few properties that are coming out of their affordability term. Meaning the owners of those properties are free to take them market rate.
Now studies have shown that most of those aren’t going to go to market rate. It depends a lot on the conditions in the market where the properties are located. But those that are in sort of those red and yellow areas on the map are areas with higher rents. So those are properties where we may be particularly concerned that we will lose those as affordable properties down the road.
Then the other thing I just want to highlight on this map, we’ve got quite a few properties in sort of those darker blue areas, which are lower rent areas, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe from being at risk of loss. The concern in those lower rent areas is the property owners may not have been able to charge enough rent to maintain the properties properly. They might not be able to refinance or rehab them in the future. And so we may lose those to disinvestment rather than to going market rate. So we’ve got concerns on both ends of those markets. And we need to investigate many of those properties in more detail to see what the chances are that we might lose them and what resources we have available to address them.
Then finally, I just want to talk a little bit about the importance of building more inclusive neighborhoods. And to do that, I want to talk about these three tracks I’ve highlighted on the screen, track 39.08 on the west side, tract 27.03, that’s a little bit to the north and east. And then tract 16.02, which is on the east side over by the airport. And if we look at those three tracks, and we look at again, going back to that Opportunity Atlas.
That west side track, the census predicts that the average annual income in adulthood of a child who grows up in that neighborhood in a low-income household in that neighborhood would be about $45,000. And the track to the north and east, 27.03, that projected income drops almost in half to $24,000. And if you go all the way to that east side track, we’re down to a protected income of $17,000.
Now what’s significant is the difference in opportunity to live in those neighborhoods. That track where a low-income child from a low-income household is projected to earn $45,000, there’s only four units in that track that would be affordable to a household earning 50% of area median income.
And in those other tracks where the projected income in the future is much lower, there are hundreds to over a thousand units that would be affordable to someone with 50% of area median income. And so if you are a low-income resident, you don’t have many choices, many opportunities to live in those higher opportunity neighborhoods. And I think while we don’t need to make people move, I think we need to give people more choices to be able to move if they want.
I’m going to talk just real briefly on next steps. We’re doing this outreach, as Aaron said, we’re doing presentations like this all over town. Paula McCoy is leading many of those locally. We hope to conduct a housing condition assessment. We heard from a lot of people that one of the concerns is the condition of housing.
But it’s hard to get good data on that. So we are putting together a pilot project to assess-it’s a curbside assessment, but really get a sense of at least from the outside where does it look like we need to spend a concentrate, more rehab dollars? And what kinds of conditions are properties seeming to face? We are working on a policy agenda that we will be circulating and getting input on and working on getting consensus on going forward. And then from that, we want to develop that implementable policy, with the hope of having that policy ready by the end of the year.
-Matt Weber, Grounded Solutions (Presentation+Q&A ends at 34:00 min mark)
WS FEH Presentation for Planning Commission 7-23-2020
I’ve watched this video many times. It never fails to move me. But Grounded Solution’s ForEveryoneHome data failed to move Allen Joines to action.
Did anyone else notice Mayor and W-S Alliance President, Allen Joines calling for a “housing czar” earlier this month?
Here’s Joines’ full quote in his Wilkesboro vernacular. https://t.co/w7QOs9BAPn
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) October 26, 2021