The Fayetteville City Council on Monday night voted unanimously to move forward with implementing a revised affordable-housing policy, including bringing back an incentive program and developing a housing trust fund.
The council funded an affordable housing study in fiscal year 2022 and adopted action plans on housing in 2022 and 2023.
In other business, the council discussed a request for financial assistance from organizers of the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival, which is trying to recover from financial hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival’s board of directors has requested $15,000 from the city.
Some council members voiced concern about diversity, including in the festival’s traditional concert lineup.
The housing issue is about “how we preserve existing housing, how we help our seniors stay in their houses longer, and how we produce more housing,” said Chris Cauley, director of the city Economic and Community Development Department.
A housing trust fund has two primary purposes, according to Cauley. They are identifying revenue sources, including federal and state grants, a potential housing bond and annual allocations from the general fund, and setting policy guidelines on how to evaluate funding requests.
Most recently, the council directed the city staff to add a $12 million housing bond on the ballot in November.
“There’s a lot more work to be done,” said Cauley, who presented a report to the City Council on Monday. “So tonight, what we’re talking about is checking in with the work that your team has done for the city, making sure that the direction staff is going is the right direction council wants it … as we revise our affordable-housing policies and procedures.
“And then moving into the fall, we’ll be talking about our development finance incentives, which are a little bit different than economic development incentives,” he said. “We’re not talking about recruiting jobs. We’re talking about incentivizing certain kinds of development to happen in certain places where council achieves the specific goals that council has laid out.”
According to Cauley, housing goals include improving awareness and access to housing resources; increasing the number and diversity of affordable-housing options; supporting self-sufficiency; and ensuring housing quality.
Cauley noted that one of the biggest problems in the Fayetteville area is that rental housing is more expensive than in other cities.
“So a lot of our problem, which is unique in Fayetteville, is that a lot of our housing challenge is at the lowest end of the spectrum,” he said.
Renters are significantly more financially challenged than homeowners, he said.
“I cannot emphasize enough that COVID did not do good things to these numbers."
City Manager Doug Hewett said after the meeting that moving forward on affordable-housing policies is a significant step.
“We don’t have enough affordable housing,” Hewett said. “It plays an integral role in the development of the community. The establishment of the housing and trust fund and bringing back the incentive policy incentivizes development in our redevelopment area.”
Cauley said the city has about $12.4 million available in housing resources.
"I cannot underscore that this is not enough," he added.
Hewett said the city “is putting money on this, making these plans real.”