During Town Council member comments at the last Regular meeting, Councilman Andy Buchholz brought up the issue of affordable housing in and around town, “With Bayshore back in business, they’re expecting to be hiring a lot more people…same with the Yacht Center. I know we’re looking at running utilities out to the new apartments, but long-term we need to start thinking about this….keeping it on the radar.”
While the housing issue may seem acute, it is not unusual. Rural areas like ours are dealing with a lack of affordable housing.
An analysis by Stateline paints a stark picture of the renewed rental burdens chipping away at the incomes of working- and middle-class Americans in rural communities.
Most rural counties have seen a “sizable increase” in the percentage of residents spending more than half their income on housing, a scenario the federal government calls “severely cost-burdened.”
Despite this, help from the Federal Government is decreasing in rural areas.
Demographic transformations on the Shore—aging populations, young adults moving out in search of opportunity, an influx of new immigrant communities, and the persistence of rural poverty as more jobs concentrate in urban areas means regions like Northampton County need more, not less, rental assistance and housing.
Section 515, a USDA program created in 1963, subsidizes the creation of affordable rural rental housing by giving construction loans and continued support to landlords. The program has resulted in the construction of 28,000 properties, totaling some half-million units across the country, mostly in the Midwest and South. However, existing properties within the program are increasingly losing their affordability provisions.
As properties leave the Sec. 515 program, towns, counties, and affordable housing advocates will need to redouble efforts to address the growing need for affordable housing for very low, low, and moderate-income, elderly and disabled households in rural communities. Retention is largely reliant on current owners choosing to refinance into the program.