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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

Report: 1 in 10 New Hanover County renters face eviction risk

The Village at Chesapeake apartment complex in Southeast Washington.
Brandon Chew
he Village at Chesapeake apartment complex in Southeast Washington

The North Carolina Housing Coalition has released their annual profiles on housing affordability for each county. This year, they have included foreclosure and eviction data. WHQR’s Kelly Kenoyer invited Cape Fear Housing Coalition Vice Chair Liz Carbone to talk about the region’s results. A condensed version of their conversation is below.

Kelly Kenoyer: So Liz Carbone from the Housing Coalition. Welcome.

Liz Carbone: Thank you.

KK: I hear that you have some cool new data from the statewide Housing Coalition. And I'd love to hear you tell me a little bit about what the findings are.

LC: Yeah, so we're really fortunate in our community to be able to lean on a really great State Housing Coalition, based out of Raleigh, but serving all 100 counties. They're, they're huge resources and a huge asset, and they release every year, these profiles of all 100 counties. And the newest addition, which just adds another layer of helpfulness to advocates and to service providers, is the data about pending foreclosures and evictions. So it's something that we're talking about more and more, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic, the eviction moratorium, so that new data that we can see for our whole region is super helpful to us.

KK: So what stands out in the data for the Cape Fear region when it comes to evictions?

LC: Yeah, so according to the data that they provided, there were 2,305 families in New Hanover County that were facing an eviction filing last year, which is over 10%, or over one in 10. Every renting family in our county, which is just a really staggering number. And a data point that we've been referring to for years, both from data that was provided to us from the State Housing Coalition, and from our local Bowen report, is that about one in two households in general in our community, are cost burdened. And this has been reiterated again in this study. So 52%, or just over 19,000 households are having difficulty affording their home in our county, which is, again, just staggering data.

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KK: I've actually seen recent headlines from national media that we've reached that point in the majority of the United States that half of renter's more than half of renters in the entire country are now rent burdened. It's a little bit worse than that in in this area, though. And that I just need to reiterate that stat: 10? One in 10?

LC: Yeah, so one in 10 renting households, and that can be a household of one a family, a senior veteran. So one in 10 households in general, are in danger of eviction in our community, which, in my opinion, is just a really unacceptable thing for us to, to face.

KK: And many of them don't have legal representation if it ever goes to court. So they're pretty vulnerable.

LC: So most not just in our community or in our state, but across the country. Most tenants go to court without legal representation where it's the reverse for landlords were over 90% of landlords go to eviction court with legal representation. So in that sense, you know, you're already walking in at a disadvantage.

KK: When it comes to the fair market rents, how does New Hanover County compare to our surrounding counties in Brunswick and Pender?

LC: Overall, New Hanover County is always going to be the priciest of the three counties. That being said, you know, there was a time years ago where we could say, well, it may not be ideal. And we don't want our neighbors having to cross the bridge or to live in another county. But at least, there's affordable apartments in Leland. Or at least you can live in Hampstead. And you can afford to purchase a home as a young homeowner or young family. And that's just not the case anymore. So people are getting priced out of the whole region. And that's something that this data really helps us to demonstrate is not just the rising costs here, and how costly it's been to live in New Hanover County for some time. But that safety net or that fallback that a lot of people like to rely on, of saying, well can just live in Brunswick and Pender County is really you know, that safety net is gone.

KK: Yeah, both of them are also close to 50% of renters being housing burdened. I want to ask about wages and the current cost of rent. So what, what are the average wages you're seeing among renters right now? And how does that compare to what they would need to make in order to rent here in town without being housing burdened?

LC: Yeah, so according to the North Carolina Housing Coalition, our hourly wage that you would need to earn in New Hanover County to be able to comfortably afford a rental at the fair market rate is about $24 an hour, we are regularly encountering even dual income households that each with each person only earning $10 and $12 an hour. This is a community that thrives and fully exists off of people that make less than $15 an hour. Just in my getting here, I can't tell you how many people I probably encountered, whether it was at the place I ate for lunch, or the person that helped me guide me into my parking spot because they were working on the streetscape on French street, that is not earning enough to live in this community. So it’s not just an issue of wages, you know, just increasing wages, does not address our housing supply issues. It's also one of our greatest goals is to help people understand that these are real important professions that are integral to our community's economy, and that those people deserve to live here just as much as anybody else does. Whether you earn $10 An hour or $25 an hour, you are playing an important role in our economy, and you deserve to be able to afford to live here.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.