Wake County News

Raleigh, Wake County leaders tout successes as region works to attract Apple and Amazon

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Raleigh and Wake County leaders highlighted successes and struggles to accommodate the region’s booming population Tuesday, as the region works to attract Apple and Amazon.

“Well, with 63 people coming every single day, it’s absolutely putting pressure on things,” said Jessica Holmes, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “We’re seeing a supply and demand issue that’s driving up rental rates.”

The region is among the finalists for Amazon’s proposed second headquarters dubbed HQ2.

Apple is also eyeing the area for a new campus as well.

As part of the state budget approved in the spring, lawmakers included incentives aimed at luring large companies that would make investments in excess of $1 billion.

Local leaders gathered at the North Ridge Country Club Tuesday to hear from Holmes and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane on the “State of the City and County.”

Holmes highlighted the impacts on housing in Seattle, where Amazon’s headquarters is located. Local leaders recently traveled to the city to see how growth there affected daily life.

The median sale price of a home in Seattle recently surged to $830,000, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Triangle Area Residential Realty puts the average home sale price in Wake County at $346,753.

“The reason each and every one of you should care about that is because I’m not sure if I know many people who can afford an $800,000 house right now,” said Holmes.

She noted county commissioners have included additional funding in this fiscal year’s budget for affordable housing.

“Over the next five years, we have a commitment of over $75 million that will go directly into building units and creating housing opportunities for all of our people,” said Holmes.

Wake County estimates there are 56,000 working families making less than $39,000 annually who cannot find an affordable place to live. The county projects that number to increase to 150,000 in the next 20 years.

“Fundamentally, if we have a million people moving here and we don’t have a million places for them to live, then the price of everything goes up. So, a lot of it is building more units too,” said Mayor McFarlane. “We just spent $22 million on affordable housing to do a thousand units.”

McFarlane also talked about the need to improve transit as part of a plan to keep the area affordable. In 2016, Wake County voters approved a half-cent increase in the sales tax to fund transit.

“The real change will be when we get the bus rapid transit lines in and we are really able to kick up a lot of our routes to 15-minute intervals,” she said. The transit plan calls for construction of the rapid transit routes to begin in 2022, with four routes running by 2027.

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