Hope for Housing

There are some strong initiatives emerging in Greensboro to address the city’s glut of substandard housing.

Knocking down dilapidated and abandoned homes often appears as the best path to address neighborhood blight. That may improve appearances rather quickly, but often comes with unintended consequences.

For instance, city staff recently said that it costs taxpayers about $150,000 a year to mow grass at vacant lots in the city’s possession. A lack of interest for new construction in blighted neighborhoods often means those lots sit vacant for years.

Another problem with demolition is made clear within the context of housing statistics and rental rates. There are some 125,000 housing units in Greensboro. About half are owner-occupied, while about 53,000 are rental units. The city’s homeowners weathered the post- 2008 economic crisis comparatively well, with vacancy rates in the five percent range. Rental vacancies spiked to 16 percent during the Great Recession, but have tightened to 10 percent recently.

The city is losing its stock of affordable housing units, however, at an alarming rate. Affordable housing is generally considered as rent that does not exceed $500 per month. With poverty rates lingering in the 20 percent range, Greensboro has about 24,000 renters in need of affordable housing. The city only has about 7,000 rental units available in that range.

The city council recently included four pools of money directed at economic development in distressed areas of the city.

One of those pools consists of $400,000 for a housing reclamation program. This would help move viable homes off the city’s demolition list and assist private developers in returning that stock to usability.

It’s an innovative approach, targeted mostly to homes in the Glenwood and Old Asheboro neighborhoods, that is one piece of a comprehensive plan to address critical needs in several areas of the city.

Improved housing in areas of the city often overlooked by developers is an important step in raising the quality of life for all of Greensboro. !

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