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NC Budget and Tax Center

Durham’s Joint City-County planning Committee spent last Wednesday morning hearing from city experts on the state of affordable housing near planned transit stations. As efforts to enhance mobility move forward, Durham officials want to be prepared for not only the benefits that new transit investments bring but the challenges as well. As such, they have invested resources and staff time in assessing the stock of affordable housing, options to maintain existing affordable housing, as well as policy tools and potential sites available for expanding affordable housing.

Housing is considered affordable if housing-related costs such as rent and utilities are no more than 30 percent of a household’s income.

Research shows that a majority of neighborhoods where new transit stations are built experience higher housing costs, undergo gentrification, and attract higher-income residents who are less likely to use public transit. With these troubling findings in mind, Durham CAN and other community activists organized a successful policy campaign over several years to urge local elected officials to plan for this reality. In response, Durham elected officials set a goal that at least 15 percent of housing within a half mile of each transit station be affordable to residents at or below 60 percent of the median area income. That is an annual earnings of roughly $37,350 for a family of three, which is a very modest income considering that $51,729 is needed to earn a living wage for that family size in Durham County. Read More

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Pat McCrory 4Maybe it’s the ongoing game of musical chairs in Gov. Pat McCrory’s communications staff or maybe it’s just the man himself, but whatever it is, the Governor’s public pronouncements continue to be peppered with admissions and allegations that bespeak a remarkable degree of obliviousness to the facts and the implications of his administration’s policies.

Yesterday morning’s announcement on raising teacher pay for new teachers featured a classic example. As the Governor began his remarks on his proposal and attempted to lay out the groundwork for it, he made the following rather amazing (and, one has to note, grammatically-challenged) admission:

“Today sadly, the starting teacher pay in North Carolina makes only $30,800. You know, that’s not even enough to raise a family or to pay off student loans, which this new generation of teachers are having to borrow money to go to college at this point in time. How do we expect someone to pay back that loan at that starting salary?”

While the Guv deserves an “attaboy” for making such a statement (yes, teachers make too little and government should do something about it!) he deserves nothing but a big “what the heck?!” for the stunning hypocrisy and lack of awareness it shows with respect to so many of his other policies. Read More

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Mel WattAt long last, we now know the official conservative litmus test for responding to nominations and other official proposals submitted to congress: “if the President is for something, we’re against it.”

It’s really as simple as that. And heaven help any nominees who happen to be women and/or people of color.

If the true nature of the test wasn’t already long-apparent in the right’s transparently hypocritical opposition to the federal version of Romney/Heritage Care (i.e. the Affordable Care Act), the final, once-and-for-all confirmation came yesterday when Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the nomination of Congressman Mel Watt to serve as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and then followed it up moments later with an equally absurd filibuster of the President’s nomination of a moderate, corporate lawyer named Patricia Millett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

There was literally no good reason to oppose these nominations Read More

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This is from a release distributed this morning by the North Carolina Housing Coalition:

High rents make housing unaffordable for many in Raleigh-Cary

Raleigh, N.C. –Renters in the Raleigh-Cary area need to earn $16.88 per hour in order to afford a basic apartment here, according to a report released today that compares the cost of rental housing with what renters can really afford.

The report, Out of Reach 2013, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization, and the North Carolina Housing Coalition. The report provides the Housing Wage and other housing affordability data for every state, metropolitan area, combined non metropolitan area, and county in the country. The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest home in the private housing market. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Durham and Orange county residents are one step closer to accessing more affordable-transportation options. Each of the counties’ Board of Commissioners recently selected April 1, 2013 as the date to begin collecting the half-cent sales tax to support public transit investments. Expanded bus services and new commuter and light rail have the potential of expanding the reach of opportunity by connecting North Carolinians who are poor to the education, employment, and social networks that can help them improve their financial standing.

However, public transit is only helpful to riders if it connects where they live to where the opportunities are available, according to a new report released yesterday by the NC Budget and Tax Center. The success of transit, in turn, rests on increasing access for who regularly use and depend on it: low-income North Carolinians. The report found that more than two-thirds of the state’s workers using transit earn less than $25,000 per year, and a growing share of low-income workers are relying on public transit. The report also found that housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable in the urban cores, where public transit is primarily located and jobs are more plentiful. Read More