In rural, suburban, and urban counties throughout North Carolina, serious housing challenges undermine economic success and resident well-being. These urgent housing issues in North Carolina both precede and are exacerbated by the economic and health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. No county in the state has enough affordable housing to meet the current needs of its residents with the lowest incomes, leading to tight household budgets and elevated rental market risks. Building on pre-2020 population projections from the North Carolina state demographer, we project a net growth of approximately 866,000 households statewide and highlight how that projected growth layers onto the already-strained housing markets in communities across the state. Unless North Carolina stakeholders work together toward a healthier housing market, current gaps in the low-cost housing supply, added household demand, and increased arrears related to the current pandemic will combine to exacerbate affordability challenges for households and undermine the viability of the rental and homeownership markets.
As the scope of the housing policy menus in this report will demonstrate, the state and its regions and localities can choose many different approaches to preserve current affordability for renters and owners, produce more moderate-cost housing, and protect households competing for residential stability and fair access to the housing market. To achieve these goals, we recommend adopting a portfolio of housing policies. We highlight shifts in laws and regulations that can further reduce the cost of preservation or production and address market failures in protecting households from displacement, discrimination, and disaster. Regardless of the policy approach taken, we recommend an infusion of funding (in addition to the state’s housing trust fund, which alone is insufficient) to support specific housing policies and needs. But enacting this suite of policies requires public leadership and visible collaboration to align public, private, and nonprofit actors as partners toward a healthy housing market across all of North Carolina.