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Cary’s rep undeserved? How the town and Habitat are teaming up for affordable housing

Wake County Habitat for Humanity is planning to build seven houses in Trimble Avenue in Cary during the next year.
Wake County Habitat for Humanity is planning to build seven houses in Trimble Avenue in Cary during the next year.

Wake County Habitat for Humanity and Cary recently came up with a nifty solution to allow an extra affordable home to be built in the southwestern part of town.

The town agreed to sell a sliver of land on to Habitat for $1. It’s only a quarter acre, but it will let Habitat build seven houses rather than six on a 2.58-acre parcel on Trimble Avenue off West Chatham Street. The additional land will be used for a stormwater retention pond needed to allow the extra house.

“The town really is being creative and in trying to help affordable housing move forward,” said Habitat attorney Jason Barron. “So I’m optimistic that, notwithstanding the length of the zoning process, it hopefully debunks some of the some of the reputation Cary has with respect to affordable housing. This project is a good symbol for that and hopefully is a good launching pad for additional projects going forward.”

Habitat is calling the development Hannah Place. It bought the property in 2017 from nearby Bethel Baptist Church, and it sits near the new Islamic Association of Cary mosque.

In addition to the extra house for Hannah Place, the stormwater retention pond will help Savon Heights, the neighboring subdivision which was built in the 1980s before environmental rules included stormwater management. These ponds collect runoff and release it more slowly to prevent flooding.

“This property is ideal from a stormwater standpoint,” said Cary stormwater specialist Matt Flynn. “The upshot is that it benefits to the whole community. This is the type of approach we want to see more of in the future.”

Affordability in Cary

Habitat has built 48 homes in Cary and 615 across Wake County, including 451 in Raleigh. To qualify, families must meet income guidelines: a family of three must have an income between $18,975 and $60,750; a family of four, between $21,075 and $67,450. They also must volunteer their time to help build their house.

Demand for affordable housing in Cary is high, but the options are limited. And determining affordability can be a moving target. The median price of a house in Cary is about $365,000, according to real estate website In Money magazine’s list of “Best Places to Live in Every State” published in December, it said Cary’s median home price was about $442,000.

The NC Housing Coalition found that 29 percent of Wake County residents (106,126) are “cost-burdened,” paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing and related expenses.

Addressing the need

Cary, which has a population of about 160,000, has seen explosive growth from 40 years ago when it was under 22,000.

Cary adopted an affordable housing plan in 2000 and updated it in 2010. Among the initial goals were “promoting racial, ethnic and social-economic diversity, providing employees a for local employers in a place close to their work and ensuring there are viable housing alternatives for town employees within the town limits.”

Habitat isn’t the lone affordable-housing option in Cary. Recently, the town partnered with DHIC to build 53 new senior apartments at the Willow Creek Senior Apartments at Davis Drive, according to the town’s website.

Volunteer Val Gist explains the joys and benefits of teamwork building homes for those less fortunate. She was part of an all women crew working on two new homes.

A normal neighborhood

Hannah Place’s seven single-family homes will have brick fronts and covered front porches, along with a parking area for two cars.

Wake County Habitat for Humanity

“We’re anticipating site plan approval within the next days to weeks and then starting construction soon thereafter,” Barron said. “Last year, a lot of construction projects were delayed as a result of Mother Nature but we’re optimistic that we can get started soon.”

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