The September 7, 2021, meeting of the Winston-Salem City Council was a relatively brief and bland affair. It lasted just over 53 minutes. Several items on the Council’s monthly zoning agenda were unceremoniously pulled from the agenda and continued to a later date without explanation. The Housing Authority’s redevelopment of the former Brown Elementary school was pulled. I, for one, was hoping to learn some more details about the Housing Authority’s transformation of Cleveland Avenue.
In Wednesday’s paper, the Journal’s Wesley Young gave a good overview of the City Council’s rezoning of City-owned property on Northwest Blvd and adjustments to the downtown entertainment district. Allow me to build upon Mr. Young’s foundation.
The 4.3-acre property on Northwest Boulevard near University Parkway and Hanes Dye and Finishing has been discussed by the Council before. In May, the City’s Community Development/General Government Committee discussed utilizing that property. Mayor Pro Tempore, D.D. Adams and City staff suggested that the City’s 4.3-acre lot could be used for Permanent Supportive Housing. They used the example of the Hunters Hill Apartments on Hutton Street as an example of the size and scale of housing that could be built on Northwest Blvd.
It remains to be seen what developer the City will partner with and whether the City will donate the land or whether they will enter a long-term lease with the developer, ensuring the City will control the property’s destiny for decades to come. But the first step towards development, rezoning, was approved on the Tuesday after Labor Day.
The City of Winston-Salem’s move to develop affordable housing on their 4.3-acre lot demonstrates how little the City is doing to address the affordable housing crisis in Winston. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County doesn’t have very much undeveloped land left. Land is particularly scarce downtown. Over the last two decades, land that could have been used for affordable housing has been devoted to luxury apartments in the downtown area. Mayor and Winston-Salem Alliance President Allen Joines worked diligently to help acquire property for the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and Truist Stadium during his two decades in office. But all affordable housing advocates get are the leftover lots, such as the City’s Northwest Blvd property.
According to the Journal’s Wesley Young, the City can build up to 18 units per acre on their Northwest Blvd property. But to the City’s presentation in May showed a maximum of 20 affordable housing units. With the City’s own data showing an affordable housing deficit of over 16,000 units in the city, it would take over 800 similar affordable housing developments to address Winston’s affordable housing needs. Even if the City managed to get 80-90 affordable housing units built on Northwest Blvd, that would not make a dent in Winston’s affordable housing deficit. That would still be less than half of the capacity of Crystal Towers.
If @CityofWS had devoted tens of millions of dollars for affordable housing a decade and a half ago, instead of giving Truist Stadium a blank check they could have put a dent in Winston’s affordable housing deficit by now!
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) June 14, 2021
Honestly, the City’s proposed affordable housing project on Northwest Blvd is pathetic. The Winston-Salem City Council is not serious about addressing the community’s affordable housing needs. With $51.7 million in covid relief funds, now is the time for the Winston-Salem City Council to address affordable housing in our city. The City Council must preserve aging properties such as Crystal Towers and Sunrise Towers and build multiple new affordable housing developments throughout the city. There is no better way to address poverty and economic immobility than safe, quality, affordable housing.
To invision the future, remember the past. Back in 1979 @CityofWS and HAWS were working on “10 planned subsidized developments for the poor and elderly.” Today, 10 affordable housing units is a big deal. There’s no serious commitment to address WSNC’s affordable housing deficit! https://t.co/PHAqYHCyAp pic.twitter.com/fOeBGIekgo
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) July 21, 2021