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Community housing is topic for discussion

Call it “affordable,”” or “community” or “worker.” It’s housing that everyone seems to agree is necessary, but has yet to materialize in any significant way.

It’s not a new topic and plans for such housing have been proposed a few times over the years. A couple have been built. Some changed to other types of housing. Some never got approved. The latest is probably the townhomes that are planned to be for rent in Moyock, currently progressing toward construction.

The topic surfaced again at a work session held prior to the Board of Commissioners’ final February meeting, requested by Bob Peele of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.

Peele explained that there has been a long-standing problem for seasonal and year-round, workers to afford to live in Dare County, where he noted that it would be hard to find anything less than $1,500 a month. The situation has created a worker shortage, and that has impacted businesses.

“Everybody agrees there is a problem,” Peele said, but “no answers yet.”

Peele went on to say that Dare County is not looking for Currituck to solve its problem, but rather wanted Currituck to be part of the discussion and pointed out that businesses in Corolla have the same problem.

Commissioner Bob White, Outer Banks resident and business owner, agreed there has been a problem in Corolla for years.

Peele said that the Chamber has been talking with Dare and the towns about making some density and zoning changes that would allow “community” housing, possibly mixing it in with more traditional single family homes, something “small scale” and just “here and there,” not large complexes.

Commissioner Marion Gilbert suggested that the first question that needs to be answered is, what is affordable? Is that amount $500 a month or $1,500 a month. That answer will help dictate the type of housing that will actually meet the workforce need.

Commissioner Gilbert went on to note that nobody wants subsidized housing in their neighborhood and added her concern about the negative impact on nearby property values.

Board chairman Bobby Hanig asked if the towns in Dare are willing to have community housing in their backyards.

Ways to do that have been part of the discussions that have involved not only local governments, but also builders, Realtors, developers, restaurant and other business owners, Peele noted, adding that some businesses reduced hours last summer because of lack of adequate staff, and that finding staff is also a problem for other employers including the Outer Banks Hospital and Dare campus of College of The Albemarle.

Currituck’s economic development director Larry Lombardi has attended some of those discussions and Peele invited other county staff and officials to also participate.

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