To support informed voter turnout in the Cary runoff election, ONE Wake has asked candidates to respond at length to the following question:
If elected, will you follow the recommendations of the Cary Housing Plan? In particular, will you support the continuation of dedicated Town funding to develop and preserve affordable housing in Cary?
Please see responses below. Early voting begins July 7 - July 23. Election Day is July 26. Early voting sites include the Herbert Young Community Center at 101 Wilkinson Ave, Cary. Find your Election Day site at vt.ncsbe.gov.
ONE Wake is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse candidates.
Jack Smith, District C
I am the only candidate in the runoff that has a demonstrated record of accomplishment addressing affordable housing in Cary. You have me on video record affirming my support for the ONEWAKE recommendations. I was one of the primary leaders providing content and direction in the formation of Cary’s Affordable Housing and take immerse comfort in its implementation and success. In addition, this years budget has over $10 million in additional funding.
We have to increase our affordable housing stock by expanding our partnerships with not-for-profits and provide more funding in excess of the 4% we currently budget. We’ve had extraordinary success partnering with Habitat for Humanity and DHIC and we must keep doing more to enable all our not-for-profit colleagues to act quicker. In addition, we need to explore availability of additional town land similar to the 7 acres we are in the process right now of converting to affordable housing. We need to investigate if our successful program helping families remain in their homes through grants not paid back until after the house is sold, can be modified to help first time home buyers. With the regions explosive growth, affordable housing clearly is emerging as a top priority and there is no silver bullet that will fix the backlog overnight. Compounding the challenge for Cary is we are 85% built out and 50% of our residential housing is part of an HOA, restricting our ability to pursue programs such as ‘granny flats’ on a large scale. They and similar programs will help but our best opportunity to provide more immediate impactful affordable housing is through infill redevelopment, particularly in areas with struggling strip malls. A good example is the recent Glenaire Senior Living expansion onto a distressed shopping center which resulted in a win-win for all.
On a personal note: I was born in Germany and received my citizenship in 1967. In this country I grew up poor and know what it feels like to be an outsider, growing up in a blue collar area surrounded by affluence. When I joined the Council it was a passion of mine to ensure Cary became a welcoming and inclusive community for all. Today we are and I am proud of my efforts to ensure every person living in Cary enjoy all the benefits Cary has to offer. No matter where you live or your income you can feel safe and a part of our family friendly quality of life with all our amenities.
Renee Miller, District C
Candidate did not answer ONE Wake's question
Carissa Johnson, At-Large
I am very comfortable saying yes: I will follow the recommendations of the Cary Housing Plan, but will go further to say that while it is a good plan, I think we can do more. I believe there is a great deal of competency and great ideas in our Town staff, a myriad of ways we can partner with area non-profits, agencies, County and State government, and builders so that we can come together to make real progress to decrease the affordable housing shortage.
The current mixed-income project the Town is planning at 921 SE Maynard in partnership with non-profit builder Laurel Street is a great example of what we can do, and this is the type of project I will advocate for on Council. I am eager to see it be a solar-powered development built to a green standard, and once complete it can be a repeatable model of what we can do in other areas of Cary. I have been a vocal advocate of the project, which is right in my neighborhood, and have worked with my downtown neighbors to get signatures on a statement of support for the project. In stakeholder meetings over the last year, I became convinced that this type of sustainable mixed-income project is right for Cary.
I believe voters will look at the body of knowledge I built during countless hours of meetings and calls with stakeholders, my supportive actions, and my unequivocal statements in support of a comprehensive housingaffordability plan for the Town and know that I am not paying the topic lip service. Wake County and Cary's housing affordability crisis is one of the primary drivers behind my decision to run for Council. In juxtaposition, I am in a runoff with a former Council member Ken George who was one of two people on the Council who voted against the scaled-back plan for seven single-family detached Habitat for Humanity homes in his own neighborhood in 2017. In this case, I believe actions speak louder than words, and my actions demonstrate my unwavering commitment to pursuing every possible funding source and approach to ease the housing cost burden so many Cary citizens face.
Ken George, At-Large
YES!! I fully support maintaining the current funding of affordable housing in Cary and will vote to replace whatever Federal Funds are lost in 2 years. I also support seeking more Federal and State dollars, along with county funds as they become available. I also want to expand the spending to meet the needs that we can identify. A successful program will breed success, and therefore would need to be expanded.
There are three aspects that must be considered when making a decision about who is the best candidate to represent the values of ONE Wake.
First, who best understands the complexity of the problem, the competing values and the factors that must be considered.
Second, who has the experience and skill to bring opposing sides together to solve the problem.
Third, who has experience in solving the problem on a “micro” level so that its solution can be applied on a “macro” scale.
1. As to the complexity of the problem and competing values, it takes much more than catch phrases and passion for affordable housing. If you were about to have surgery, would you want a passionate doctor, or a competent one? Would you like a passionate attorney representing you, or a competent one? Making it all sound so simple may be a passionate approach, but it will lead to disappointment and failure to achieve the intended result. Many people misunderstand competing values and are passionate for only one of the values. In this race, there’s only one who has examined the competing values in order to provide a win-win outcome. Take the Trimble Avenue Habitat Project for example. The neighbors on the downhill side of the road, across from the project, have had major flooding in their front yards and into their garages from stormwater run off from the empty, grassy field across the street. When concrete parking pads and driveways get added, what will happen to their homes? The solution needed study and a complete solution in order to weigh the decision on development and its density. Existing rules at the time allowed flooding to be mitigated to a 25-year level. But we had already had 100-year floods twice since 2015. I made a motion to wait 30 days in order to have the flood plan studied to protect existing homeowners, but the motion failed. I voted against the motion to allow the rezoning based on the fact that we didn’t have the information needed to make a fully informed decision. After the motion passed, Cary engineers put the necessary time and effort into the project, designing a stormwater retention system that would reduce run off across the road, EVEN with a 100-year flood. Armed with the complete information, I made a motion to donate town land to Habitat so that the 100-year plus flood retention device could be built, allowing Habitat to build 7, not just 6 homes on the property that had obtained. The motion passed 6 to 1, with only Council Member Bush voting against giving the land to Habitat. With efforts I spearheaded to protect the neighbors, it was an easy decision to support the additional land for project, allowing the extra home to be constructed. This case exemplifies the competing values for clearcutting land in an area that floods in order build homes versus the need to protect the homes that had been flooded several times. These complex issues need competence and understanding in order to properly legislate great solutions. Issues can’t be reduced to just saying, “I support affordable housing.” There are always competing values. How many trees must be cut? How will flooding be mitigated to clear cut land for apartment buildings, paving thousands of square feet of forest with asphalt? Impacts must be considered, and alternatives weighed. Many in the Iron Gate community have unanswered questions about the impact of 130 apartments, regardless of whether half are low-income or not. Has it been considered that apartments across the street rent for $200 less than the “affordable” ones being built? Clearcutting and paving will have an impact on the environment, not to mention that older maps showed a small park for Iron Gate in the area now in the planning for apartments. Every development brings the same questions, what impact does this plan have on the neighbors and will ALL voices be heard and RESPECTED? This brings me to point number two.
2. Who has the experience to bring two sides together? Calling one side of the argument “NIMBY’s,” (Not in My Back Yard) does nothing to bring sides together for a win-win solution. It only serves to shut down discourse. We should be encouraging discussion. There are more than even 2 sides to every rezoning. I worked with the neighbors of Chatham Walk, to address their concerns prior to the vote on the rezoning of an area for townhomes. These neighbors showed up in full force at the first public hearing. I reached out to the neighbors, some of whom I attended Cary High School with. We had a meeting in a home that was directly impacted by the development. We explored options that might mitigate the negative impact. The developer made concessions to reduce the issues caused by the new construction to the homeowner across the street. I brokered the deal to make those concessions. In the end, the result was that the neighbor spoke positively the night of the vote for the rezoning and the vote was 7-0 in favor. If you count selling potholders, door-to-door when I was in first grade, I’ve got 58 years of sales experience. If you only count jobs and my company, then I’ve got 46 years of sales experience. What does sales experience have to do with working with neighbors and developers? The core principle of listening to objections and finding a solution that addresses those obstacles is key. I’m a proven leader that has a long track record of bringing people together. Cary has one of the highest educated citizenries in the USA. We need to logically plot out all the options of affordable housing, weigh the pros and cons of each proposal. To oppose a single plan, or aspect of an affordable housing plan doesn’t mean one doesn’t want to have affordable housing. It could mean that the proposal or plan is flawed and could be improved. All neighbors need to be heard, options weighed that can make the solution win-win-win for the town, the neighbors and the future affordably housed neighbors. Name calling and driving wedges in communities is not the solution for a harmonious neighborhood or town. We can do better. WE MUST DO BETTER. I can bring that kindness and understanding, listening intently to all sides, working with all sides to bring them together. The mayor almost always ends a public hearing by telling the residents to work with the developer, make their voices heard, compromise and find common ground. That’s the way a professional public servant interacts with the community.
3. The third aspect to consider is who had dealt with the problem. My wife Karen and I chose our house in Scottish Hills over 33 years ago for one main reason, it had 5 bedrooms, plus a study and a bonus room. We had 6 kids and knew that it would be ideal, buying a house that the previous owner had expanded so that aging parents could live with him made sense to us. We have tried recently to remember the names of people who have lived with us, who needed a place to stay for various reasons. We can’t think of all of them who have stayed 3 – 6 – 12 – 18 months, but we understand situations that cause people to need an “affordable” place to live. Let me list some of the situations that allowed us help people in the community. This isn’t an exhaustive list of those who have lived at least 3 months with us, but it’s representative of much of the homelessness and need for affordable housing in Cary… A bank teller starting out who couldn’t afford an apartment yet, a bi-polar Cary High Classmate who had been living in his car, an 18 year old girl whose dad had just left her mom, an NC State student who needed housing for one semester before graduation, a single mom school teacher with grown children who was undergoing chemotherapy and needed a place for 6 months until she could find a condo in Cary, an abused, hiding wife and her 2 teenage kids stayed for 6 months and celebrated their Christmas in our house, a young couple waiting for their house to be built who didn’t want to sign a year lease not knowing when their house would be finished, an older couple who managed a B&B that was sold out from under them, a 12-month free place for a youth minister who had to raise support, and a 90-day stay for a young couple whose previous home was sold out from under them with 2 weeks’ notice who had no savings for a deposit and first month’s rent. Only 3 we can recollect having paid us any money we kept, but at most $150 / month for those renters. In other cases, we collected rent, saved it and gave it back to them when they moved out to help them get started. In our mind, it was a way to help them to save some cash. The experience of having a house to share certainly helped us to fully understand this need. We were taught by a couple who let us live in their basement for 3 months while looking for an apartment when the market was tight with no available options back when we only had 2 children. It’s now part of our life. We will have a future bride come live with us beginning this summer through her wedding in March when she will move in with her new husband. We’ve had struggles with money while making lease payments. With 4 kids, we were on the WIC program for about 6 months until my sales job training was complete, and I was able to get started and make enough to fully support us. We carried our desire to help people with us to the Dominican Republic, where from late 2008 – mid 2010 we worked and lived as self- supporting missionaries with a non-profit out of Kentucky. We lived in a 2-bedroom house for $165 / month while working within the community. Many of the neighbors paid $40 - $50 a month to rent parts of houses, or accessory dwelling units. One family in particular was living in a corrugated tin house with a dirt floor. When I found out that his sibling needed a place to stay and that he was renting the house from his eldest sister, I financed the materials and labor to build a duplex so both families could live in the same lot, each with 2 bedrooms. It was a detached accessory dwelling unit beside a larger 2 story house. I learned a valuable lesson on helping more people with the same amount of money than otherwise donating to a cause. In this case, 2 families had a home with minimum rent, but the most rewarding part of the story was that the landowner was able to use the rent of the other 2 siblings to pay for their daughter’s college education. That’s whey accessory dwelling units or ADU’s in non-HOA neighborhoods in Cary are such a good idea. I’ll cover my plan for that in my next section. The idea was born from a combination of having built this duplex to rent, helping spread the word in my neighborhood of housing repair grants/loans and learning what High Point has been doing to promote ADU’s. (High Point had a program to waive ALL development fees for ADU’s in certain areas.)
I am proposing a plan to expand our “home repair” grant program in Cary, to go beyond just fixing roofs, air conditioners, bathrooms, floors, etc. to include small renovation projects that would allow rental basement apartments, bonus room apartments and/or accessory dwelling units, or “Granny Flats” that can be built with 30-year guarantees of reduced rent. These grants would only be paid back at the sale of the home to a non-family member. The cool thing is that when the money is paid back, it will go toward helping build another unit. It becomes sort of like an ADU endowment, where the principal, even though it goes out, comes back eventually to help affordable unit go in. I want to work with ONE Wake and other organizations to publicize and develop plans like this that make sense to help both the low or fixed income homeowners not only to stay in their homes, but to gain rent in order to help pay the increasing tax and inflation burdens they face. We will be helping both a fixed income homeowner and a renter who needs an affordable place to live! Much better than paying a developer to rent an apartment for a few hundred dollars less. My experience of a landlord paying for their children’s college with the rent money is the origin of my idea as mentioned in #3 above. Future renters of these ADU’s would benefit as well. This also integrates affordable housing into the fabric of Cary, mixing all income levels in the same neighborhood.” Because the asphalt, water and sew lines are already run to the main dwelling, the ADU can tie into it with less capital outlay than a dedicated community of affordable units. ADU’s will be the topic of the Town Council August retreat. Please lobby the other council members to help make this plan a reality, to move quickly, and adopt a plan because the problem will only worsen with time.
To summarize, I believe whole-heartedly, that “to whom much has been given, much will be required.” That has driven my wife and I to be generous in helping those in need. With 6 children and 18 grandchildren, we’ve truly been blessed. But I also believe that on a macro level, the same applies. Cary and its citizens have been blessed as the wealthiest town in the region. Much will be required of her because of what we’ve been given. Some might say it’s not been given but earned. But if you are healthy and able to work hard, you’ve been given a gift. Having been raised by my dad from teenage years after losing my mom, a schoolteacher, to cancer when she was only 47, I know that good health is a gift and shouldn’t be taken for granted!
Being ENDORSED by the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, I’m asking you to stand with me, work with me, call me and help us develop working plans to make sure that Cary can catch up on the affordability of housing. Due to our success as a town, we are lagging behind the rest of the county. It’s going to take leadership to help those workforce families find a place to live in Cary. It’s not only worth the effort, but it’s worth our sacrifice. Visit my website: www.Cary.com in order to get more information or to connect with me. I’d appreciate your vote in early voting or on July 26th!
Do you like this page?