Commissioners mull housing options

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

After discussing eliminating the county’s director of public housing position in closed session at their Dec. 15 meeting, commissioners have voted to keep the position for the next fiscal year.

County staff recommended commissioners eliminate the position in the next fiscal year’s budget, and asked commissioners to consider a new senior-level position responsible for housing development in the county’s planning and community development department.

County attorney Huey Marshall said the board voted “not to eliminate the public housing director’s position, but with the budgeting process, to focus on not only rent subsidy or assistance, but investigate things such as mortgage assistance or pubic housing.”

According to the staff request for the position elimination, the county’s public housing department is a single Section 8 subsidy program with federal funding to assist about 450 families with housing rentals.

The director’s position has been vacant since April 30.

As county staff begins the budgeting process for the upcoming fiscal year, commissioner Marty Cooke said commissioners, county staff and local relief agencies need to work together to consider different housing opportunities.

“Whatever aspect we need to take, I’d like for us to take a look at,” he said.

Cooke said if the county opted to pursue public housing, it should be a model for the state.

“I’m interested in public housing, but what I’m interested in is creating something that’s not going to become a slum, where [residents] feel safe and comfortable,” Cooke said.

As the county’s housing market is today, Cooke says the county has not provided enough incentives for developers to build low-rent housing. “I think we need to figure out ways that will be win-win to create viable solutions,” he said.

Currently the county has density incentives in its Unified Development Ordinance for low-income housing, but Cooke said developers complain of the lengthy permitting process.

“There have been some developers that have done that. By the time you jump through all the hoops, it doesn’t really have enough incentives. There doesn’t seem to be enough there,” he said.

In other business:

•Commissioners approved funding $120,000 for start-up of Brunswick Community College’s aquatic and fitness center from the commissioners’ contingency fund.

•Approved a contract with the social services department and Carolina Rehabilitation Inc.

•Approved a contract between the social services department and Coastal Horizons Inc.

•Approved the annual memorandum of agreement between Brunswick County EMS and the N.C. Department of Transportation.