Wake County’s affordable housing shortage means about 1,000 children are living in budget motels, organization says

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Raleigh had just enough snow for a father to go out and play with his kids in it.

Gregory Hill and his children make a snowman.

For Gregory Hill, building a snowman proved much easier than finding a place for his family to live. That took him months.

“People are struggling. I think it’s kind of hard,” he said.

Hill’s case isn’t unique. There is currently a gap of 17,000 affordable housing units in Wake County. Some 1,000 units are lost each year. The wait time for subsidized tax-credit property and Section 8 housing can be years.

“There’s a significant lack of affordable housing — particularly for very low-income households,” said Lisa Rowe.

Rowe is the Executive Director of Families Together NC. The organization works to cut down wait time by helping with the first month’s rent, security deposit assistance, finding higher-paying jobs, and guiding them through the process.

“It’s the economy. It’s the function of the lack of affordable housing. It’s not that necessarily someone was a bad parent, or didn’t go to work, or didn’t do all the right things,” Rowe said.

In the meantime, Rowe said the rate of school-age children living in budget motels in Wake County has spiked by 225 percent in the past three years. The latest figures showed numbers around 1,000 children.

“They’re living in motels or they’re living doubled up with their family’s friends (or) acquaintances. They kind of move from place to place. Maybe it’s a motel for one week. Maybe it’s a cousin for one week. Maybe it’s in their car,” Rowe explained.

“There’re motels that have a lot of crime and they’re just not good places for kids to be living. No place to play. No place to do their homework. No place to have a meal together, and just unsafe.”

Lisa Rowe

Just to qualify for housing, landlords typically require an income of three times the monthly rent.

“So, if you’re making, say, $15 an hour, what would be affordable for you would be about $750 to $800. That’s non-existent these days,” Rowe said. “So something that’s now considered affordable would be more like $950 to $1,000, and you couldn’t qualify.”

That’s something Hill knows too well.

“It’s tough out there. It is tough out there,” he said.

Click here to learn more about Families Together NC and how to help.

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