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  • Writer's pictureJustin Tahilramani

NC Senate Bill 317 - Expanding Workforce Housing Opportunities in North Carolina

NC Senate Bill 317
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As the cost of housing continues to rise, North Carolina faces an urgent need for affordable housing options. To address this issue, NC Senate Bill 317 aims to promote the development of workforce housing in the state by amending current state statutes. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of the proposed bill and explore the benefits it can bring to the state.

Workforce housing refers to residential developments that meet specific criteria designed to promote affordability and accessibility. By defining these terms at the state level and incorporating them uniformly into local planning and development regulations, the bill provides a clear framework for statewide implementation of workforce housing initiatives.

GS 160D-802.1, a new provision proposed by the bill, allows for workforce housing developments to be permitted in any zoning district and territorial area of a local government. This provision ensures that workforce housing can be developed across North Carolina, addressing the critical shortage of affordable housing options.

The bill establishes four essential criteria for workforce housing development:

  1. Minimum Development Size: A workforce housing development must occupy a minimum of 10 acres, ensuring a sufficient scale to accommodate the required housing units.

  2. Dwelling Units and Improved Lots: At least 20% of the lots in the development must be improved with dwelling units, adhering to the standards defined by the North Carolina Residential Code for One and Two-Family Dwellings. These improved lots will be conveyed as workforce housing properties.

  3. Owner-Occupancy: At least 50% of the workforce housing improved lots must be conveyed to owner-occupants who qualify for lender financing based on an income that does not exceed 80% of the area median income (AMI) as published by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The remaining lots may be conveyed to owner-occupants with an income not exceeding 100% of the AMI for the area where the majority of the development is situated.

  4. Residency Requirement: Owner-occupants must move into the workforce housing improved lots within 60 days of conveyance and maintain the dwelling as their principal residence for the majority of the calendar year. This provision ensures that the workforce housing units serve their intended purpose of providing affordable homes for North Carolina residents.

To facilitate the development of workforce housing, the bill prevents local governments from imposing excessive vegetation requirements within workforce housing developments. While a 20-foot vegetative buffer zone along the perimeter of the development and adjoining properties can be required, the bill restricts local governments from enforcing additional vegetation-related regulations. This provision streamlines the development process and reduces unnecessary burdens on developers, thereby expediting the construction and lowering overall development costs for workforce housing units.

The proposed bill provides incentives for compliance with the act. Additionally, local governments can impose restrictions on certificates of occupancy and certifications on builders to ensure compliance with the workforce housing development regulations, thereby encouraging adherence to prescribed standards and fostering responsible development practices.

In the event of non-compliance by a local government, the bill allows aggrieved individuals to seek legal recourse by applying for an order in superior court compelling compliance. The prioritization of such cases on the court calendar ensures the efficient resolution of disputes. Furthermore, the bill allows for the imposition of attorneys' fees, offering additional motivation for local governments to comply with the act.

While the bill provides a framework for workforce housing development, it maintains the authority of local governments to enforce certain regulations. Local governments can continue to enforce Article 11 and Article 12 of GS Chapter 160D, ensuring adherence to essential development standards. Moreover, regulations related to dedications of rights-of-way or easements for street or utility purposes, road or utility construction performance standards, and performance guarantees for subdivisions can be enforced without hindrance.

The bill explicitly clarifies that it does not establish, alter, or expand a local government's authority to enforce owner-occupancy development standards, rent control, or other standards related to affordable housing. This clarification ensures that local governments can continue to implement additional measures to address affordable housing concerns specific to their communities.

In conclusion, the proposed bill represents a significant step forward in addressing the pressing need for affordable housing in North Carolina. By defining workforce housing developments and creating a framework for its implementation, the bill provides an opportunity to enhance the availability of affordable homes for North Carolina residents. The provisions outlined in the bill, including restrictions on excessive regulations and incentives for compliance, foster a balanced approach to housing development.

It is crucial to support this bill and encourage our legislators to pass it. By doing so, we can promote equitable and sustainable communities throughout North Carolina, ensuring that all residents have access to safe, affordable housing.

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