RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A new bill filed in the North Carolina House takes aim at one of the biggest issues confronting the state — a lack of affordable housing.
Rep. Ben Moss, a Republican who represents Moore and Richmond counties, filed H.B. 54, the Make North Carolina Home Act, earlier this month in an attempt to address the state’s housing shortage.
But how, exactly, would some parts of this bipartisan bill accomplish that? And with the housing market cooling, is it coming too late?
One of the state’s leading experts on real estate and the housing industry says the three-pronged bill is “in general … a good idea.
“But how large the effect will be, I don’t know,” said Yongqiang Chu, the director of the Childress Klein Center for Real Estate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“All these things can help, but I think to the extent (of) how much it can help is probably going to be limited,” he added.
The bill would:
- Translate the state building code into Spanish.
- Direct the state Department of Commerce to create a website that would pool planning, zoning and land-use regulations into a single database. It would allow people to see what the permitting process looks like in other places, give developers a tool to compare markets and building requirements and serve as a central clearinghouse of information for planning departments and board members.
- Direct Commerce to partner with counties and come up with “measurable goals” to fulfill housing needs in the state’s growing areas, giving them a decade to accomplish that.
“It would streamline some processes,” Moss said. “And you would actually have a way to see how certain land was owned in certain areas, to where maybe contractors or people that were wanting to build affordable housing could pick certain areas to go into and actually construct some affordable housing.”
Translating the code into Spanish might seem trivial — but Chu says it’s practical because it removes one potential obstacle for Spanish-speaking builders.
“It’s my opinion that the codes and the zoning regulations are a big factor in restricting the supply, restricting the housing supply,” Chu said “So making (it easier for) more people to understanding these things, or doing even a little bit more, help them navigate through these regulations would definitely help.”
Moss says he envisions that website to serve as a searchable database that would help to speed up the building process.
“Because right now there’s certain areas that need a lot of housing, and they don’t have it,” he said. “And it doesn’t seem like anyone’s able to meet those needs right now, currently.”
The mention of “measurable goals” seems like a vague target, but Moss says it’s not intended to be that way.
“You should have enough houses to fit the need,” he said.
“I think if we get some more houses built, then that could actually bring the price down to something more affordable, that people could have a house of their own,” he added.
The median sale price of a home in North Carolina was $336,200 in January, up 4.5 percent from a year earlier, according to redfin.com. Ten metro areas had year-over-year increases of more than 21 percent, led by High Point (48 percent) and Sunset Beach (41 percent).
The property website reported about 35,000 homes for sale last month across the state, an yearly increase of 3 percent.
But rising interest rates have caused the market to begin cooling, with 27 percent of homes in January selling below list price. That rate was under 7 percent a year earlier.
So is this bill coming too late?
“Although the housing market has been cooling down after the pandemic and because of the high interest rates, in the long run, I still can see that the housing supply is still going to be very limited in North Carolina, in Charlotte, in Raleigh,” Chu said. “I think it’s a good idea to do these things as soon as possible. I mean, it’s better late than never, right?”
Moss agreed with that, even using those same four words, and pointed to the new jobs that Apple and Google are bringing to the Triangle in the coming years as potential stressors for the housing market.
“So to me, it’s better late than never, but I sort of wish it would have happened maybe 5-6 years ago,” he said. “Because now we’re in a situation where we desperately need it, and we’re playing catch-up.”