Sept. 10: Live blogging today's Durham City Council meeting re: affordable housing
(Updated) Turn the page: Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez is out, but who can mend the city?

Defining "affordable" in Durham: If you have to ask, well ...

 Affordable housing is one of the most important issues facing the city—other than hiring a new police chief, since Jose Lopez is announcing his retirement today. But what qualifies as "affordable"?

Last year at the INDY I started a file on the new downtown/Ninth Street apartments, which listed prices, square footage, etc. I've updated it in this Excel file.  Download Durham condos:apartments

Then I looked at salaries of various occupations to see who could afford to live in these new units.

Download Who can afford it

Now, I based these figures on an Annual Median Income of $50,000 for Durham. That was the number being quoted at the time. It does not include Chapel Hill, which is why we're now hearing the $67,000 amount being batted about. 

Housing advocates, lenders, the federal government and sensible people say to be fiscally healthy, you should not spend more than 30 percent of your gross annual income on housing and utilities. Many people do, of course, because they have no choice.

When you factor in child care, medical expenses, transportation (the No. 2 highest household expense), food, unexpected emergencies, clothing and other necessities of every day living (notice we are not including vacations), then that $1,700 a month apartment is a non-starter.


Khalid Hawthorne

Thanks for the spreadsheets Lisa! Is Solis Ninth Street the same as Ninth Street North (rebranding)??

The way people use housing definitely varies. I have paid $700-800 for a one BR and had a neighbor who lived in a similar size unit with three kids. School district weighed heavily in this living arrangement.

I missed the days of having a 3 BR 1200 sq ft unit in Greensboro for $660/mo. It was the 90's but my next apartment was $800+ for 1000 sq ft 2 BR apt in Raleigh (pre-Brier Creek days).

The definition of 'luxury' has definitely changed but I also understand real estate economics (location...location...location). Now I also believe that there is a LOT of profit maximization going on especially for the amenities that are being provided. Things will normalize soon though but it will still be higher than our previous rent highs.

Lisa Sorg

Yes, Solis is the same as Ninth Street North. Berkshire used to be called Crescent. This often happens when the apartment complexes are sold to new investors.

Susan Ross

Fascinating spread sheet, thank you for putting time into the research here.

I am interested in what is happening to the rent prices at existing Durham apartment complexes with all this new construction. What is the supply/demand situation like there? My assumption is that those who can afford the new fancy places may leave spaces in other complexes open, and thus that those may become more affordable. My 30-year-old house is certainly a better value than a new house would be in my neighborhood, partly because it lacks some bells and whistles. Rather than focusing on building new affordable housing, can we repurpose some of what we already have?

Another very serious issue that many of our homeless/near homeless folks face is that apartment complexes will not rent to them because of a criminal record. I've spent many frustrating hours trying to help a friend navigate these waters. Ex-offenders get pushed into the housing equivalent of payday loans -- rooming houses, slum landlords, etc. It's a terrible situation.

Khalid Hawthorne

Excellent points Susan...and many of those slumlords own houses in concentrated areas of Durham.

The trend is for older Class A properties to be upgraded with higher rents as well. Class B/C properties in good locations are being torn down and redeveloped in to high rent units. That has probably mostly occurred in Raleigh in the Six Forks area but those trends usually reach Durham as well.

I would love to see several properties around the South Square area redeveloped as Mixed-Income units (20/80 affordable/ workforce housing split). With units that are closer to the $1 per sq ft range than $2 plus.

Yorktown was upgraded but I am not sure about the new rates or the actual upgrades beyond exterior that were completed. I know several of the units needed upgraded electrical, HVAC, water heaters, etc.

The comments to this entry are closed.