Missing in the middle

Published 7:04 pm Monday, May 14, 2018

As more downtown property owners move towards renovating historic buildings to include new, top-of-the-line apartments, these posh and convenient spaces will undoubtedly be quickly rented out to those who can afford them.

On the other end of the renting spectrum, for individuals and families who struggle to get by, the Washington Housing Authority owns and manages 383 public housing units. With a mission of providing safe and decent housing for low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities, the organization manages a total of six public housing communities in the City of Washington.

In order to qualify for public housing or Section 8 vouchers, applicants must meet a stringent set of requirements, including combined family incomes that cannot exceed a certain amount, as set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Housing Authority currently has openings on its waiting lists for both of these programs.

For those who can either afford the high rents that come with downtown living, or those who can qualify for public housing or Section 8 vouchers, there are options out there.

Lacking in Washington, however, are affordable long-term rental properties for moderate-income families and individuals who either don’t qualify for, or aren’t interested in, public housing programs.

While there is housing available for this subset of the population, affordable houses and apartments are few and far in between. Those that show up on rental websites are usually quickly snatched up, making it difficult to find a place to live.

So why is this a problem for Washington?

For younger families and professionals, a lack of affordable housing can create a major headache for those moving to the area to put down roots or establish a career. With many unready or unwilling to take the plunge into property ownership, apartment/house hunting can leave them between a rock and a hard place.

While there is no easy solution to this problem, it is certainly one that should be acknowledged. With plentiful housing options just next door in Pitt County, many will choose to make the commute to Washington for their jobs, missing out on all that the area has to offer. In turn, Beaufort County may be missing out on bringing young, community-minded individuals and families to our area.