CURS Director Bill Rohe on WUNC’s The State of Things

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February 3, 2015

CURS Director Bill Rohe was a guest on WUNC’s The State of Things today to discuss why North Carolinians struggle to find affordable housing. Click to listen!

Bill Rohe with host Frank Stasio on WUNC's The State of Things

Bill Rohe talks with Frank Stasio on WUNC’s The State of Things (photo credit: Hady Mawajdeh)

In his conversation with host Frank Stasio, Rohe discussed the results of two ongoing studies conducted by UNC’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies that inform the debate over how to help resolve North Carolina’s low- and moderate-income housing shortage.

The first examines the Charlotte Housing Authority’s HOPE VI grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which it used to redevelop Charlotte’s Boulevard Homes site. The study looks at people who were relocated to other public housing units or to private housing using housing choice vouchers (HCVs) during the redevelopment. Rohe noted Charlotte was able to move money around to provide assistance to help tenants move and provide access to counselors.

It is too soon to figure out how many people will return to the Boulevard Homes now that they have been rebuilt into a mixed-income community, says Rohe. However, he does know that “a very high percentage of them are very happy with how they’ve been treated and very happy in their new neighborhoods,” and, he noted, many are just happy to be out of that particular public housing development.

The second study discussed in the interview is an assessment of a HUD demonstration program called Moving to Work (MTW), which encourages public housing authorities (PHAs) to experiment with new ideas in their efforts to provide decent, affordable housing to low- and moderate-income households. According to Rohe, Charlotte is one of 39 PHAs given flexibility in its use of funds through participation in the program. Additionally, says Rohe, participating PHAs can ask for waivers from federal requirements in order to better provide services to public housing families. (Read the new CURS study on Moving to Work.)

Rohe noted that some PHAs implemented work requirements as a condition of public housing residency and also provide case managers to help deal with any obstacles to getting jobs. Early reporting from case managers, says Rohe, indicate the work requirement is getting people serious about jobs and moving toward self-sufficiency.

Fellow guest on the program Bill Rowe, general counsel and advocacy director at the NC Justice Center, responded to Dr. Rohe’s assessment of the Charlotte programs and said there are “many lessons to be learned from what Charlotte is doing.”

When asked about public spending and the provision of affordable housing for North Carolinians, Rohe responded “one of the questions is which levels of government should get involved and traditionally it’s been local government looking to the federal government to provide the subsidy… [now] it’s important that the state steps up and it’s important that the local governments step up.”