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Lack of Affordable Housing: A Barrier to Patients & Convicts Trying to Get Back on their Feet

City of Wilmington
Mayor's Roundtable for Housing Affordability

In New Hanover and Pender counties, almost 40% of homeowners are cost burdened, meaning they spend over a third of their income on housing. That’s not even factoring in renters, who are about half of the local population. This lack of affordable options leads to housing instability, which hits those who’ve already had a hard knock—like imprisonment and illness—especially hard. 

Judge James Faison says that without affordable housing, it becomes difficult for former convicts to complete their parole requirements and fully rejoin the community as productive citizens. He says about 80% of individuals in the court system are there because of drug or alcohol related conduct, and the courts attempt to address this root cause by requiring treatment:

"But if they don’t have a place to live, then treatment is really secondary. And so what happens is they may fail to do that and then that’s a violation of probation, which then they’re brought back to court, which often, at that point, may result in their becoming incarcerated and so then that’s further cost to the taxpayer."

Judge Faison says it costs almost thirty thousand dollars a year to house one person in the Division of Adult Corrections. In the New Hanover County jail, it costs about 80 dollars a day. He says those expenses could be avoided if more affordable housing were available. 

Mary Ellen Bonczek says New Hanover Regional Medical Center has a similar problem with their patients:

"So, what’s affordable housing to one patient is not affordable to the next. What we refer to, similar to Judge Faison, is a safe discharge. So, I need to send a patient home to an environment where they can be cared for, and at times, what was the affordable home before the illness is no longer the affordable home after the illness."

Bonczek says affordable housing is essential in order to provide longitudinal care to recovering patients.