Region A Housing Update

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since partners from around the region gathered
for the “Bridging the Gap: Housing and Economic Development Summit”. One of the
main goals for that day was to explore ways that local governments can partner with the
private sector to help address the region’s housing issue, so I wanted to take this
opportunity to update you on some of the progress that has been made over the past
year. Below are a few examples of what our local governments are doing to address
this issue.

Housing Studies

The Mountain West Partnership, an economic development collaboration of the seven
western counties, the EBCI, WCU, and community colleges, made housing a strategic
priority for 2019. The region’s economic developers decided that the first step to
addressing the issue was to collect data on the current situation. Working with the
Southwestern Commission and Joy Strassel from the WNC Housing Partnership, all
seven counties now have data identifying what the housing needs and opportunities are
in their community. Those reports are available to view on the Southwestern Commission website.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credits

In August 2019, Haywood County received Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to convert
its historic hospital into 54 affordable housing units to address the growing need for
workforce housing in the county. This was the fourth time that Haywood County applied
for tax credits for this project. One of the adjustments made was for the Town of
Waynesville to designate the hospital and adjoining parcels as a redevelopment area,
which moved the project into a smaller pool of projects, increasing its chances of being

Haywood lands tax credits for historic hospital redevelopment

Infrastructure Development

One of the ways that local government can incent housing development is to provide
the infrastructure required for development. Swain County is working on a project to
extend sewer service into an area that has the potential for housing development. The
county has applied to the Appalachian Regional Commission to secure funding for the
project, which will provide sewer access to ten sites with potential for multi-family

Housing Committees

Jackson County has convened a housing committee to explore potential solutions to the
county’s housing shortage. Housing committees are a way to bring together
stakeholders with diverse backgrounds and passion for the issue to explore potential

Ordinance Change

The Murphy Town council recently amended an ordinance requiring separate water
connections for newly constructed apartment complexes. The fees were seen as a
deterrent to development. The hope is that with the ability to purchase a single master
water meter and waive system development fees, the town can attract developers to
help address workforce housing.

One of the roles that the Southwestern Commission plays is to share models of success
across our county boundaries so that our local governments can better serve their
citizenry by adopting best practices. If you know of efforts to address our region’s
housing issue, please share them with us so that we may share them with others.