DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As the cost of housing in Durham continues to rise, it’s making it more difficult for people to purchase homes and find affordable places to live in the city.

According to Realtor.com, the median home price in Durham was $365,000 as of February 2022. That is a 23.7 percent jump from this time last year.

Shaan Hassan, 32, lives and works in downtown Durham as an architect and he is looking to purchase his first home.

“I just finished paying off my student loan debt about a year ago, but it’s difficult to save up for a down payment,” Hassan said.

He said it has been difficult finding an affordable home he can purchase downtown, especially as home prices continue to rise.

“You would think that someone like me who has been working as an architect for 8 to 9 years, that I should be able to afford a home,” Hassan said.

During Thursday afternoon’s Durham City Council work session, council members received an update from the city’s community development department on the city’s efforts that are underway to create more affordable housing through the Forever Home Durham program.

Forever Home Durham is a $160 million program that was created to help create more affordable homes and living for low-to-moderate-income residents.

It is geared toward providing both affordable rental and permanent homes for individuals and families who make less than 80 percent of the area’s median income. This includes one-person households who make less than $48,400 and four-person households who make just under $70,000.

Since the $95 million affordable housing bond passed in 2019, the city’s community development department gave an update on the progress the city has made on providing more affordable housing.

For instance, they have a goal to create 1,600 affordable rental units and 662 of those units are either in the pipeline or are under contract.

According to the presentation made by community development director Reginald Johnson, 261 rental units have been preserved, 838 homeless individuals have been placed in permanent housing, and 1,288 low-income households have been stabilized.

Reginald Johnson, director of the community development department, said that they plan to create 400 homeownership opportunities and they are currently taking applications for Durham’s down payment assistance program.

Through this program, households that make less than 80 percent of the AMI can receive help from the city with paying up to $20,000 in down payments and closing cost assistance.

Several city council members voiced concerns during Thursday’s city council meeting that more needs to be done to address the city’s affordable housing crisis.

“We are making a concerted effort to make a difference in this arena, but it’s nowhere near enough,” said Jillian Johnson, a Durham city council member.

As more expensive housing continues to go up, council members acknowledged the need to look for more innovative ways to create a balance of both affordable homes and the more expensive homes that the market is demanding.

“I think there is opportunity there to continue working with our development community,” said Javiera Caballero, a Durham City Council member. “Like, if you’re willing to put some affordable units on your house, do we move you through the process faster?”

Johnson said the federal government needs to help address this issue that’s happening all over the country.

“One solution to this problem is going to have to come from higher levels of government, either in the ability to regulate the housing market more effectively to ensure that lower-income people are being served or with funding to provide massive amounts of publicly subsidized housing,” Johnson said.

At the next city council work session, Durham City Council members are expected to come back with ideas on how everyone from the city, state, federal government, and even those in the community, can help address the affordable housing crisis.

As for the city’s down payment assistance program, they will continue to take applications until they run out of the $5.7 million allotted for the program.

For more information on how to apply, visit the program’s website. And to stay updated on the progress the city is making with providing affordable housing, visit the Forever Home Durham program website.