Wilkes County Leaders Look For Ways To Address Housing Gaps

Wilkes County Leaders Look For Ways To Address Housing Gaps

3:39pm Feb 05, 2021
Tyson Foods is one of the largest employers in rural Wilkes County North Carolina. Local officials are discussing ways to create more housing in the community to attract workers and companies like Tyson for more economic development. KERI BROWN WFDD

A recent study shows a major shortage of housing in Wilkes County. Local officials want to create more affordable workforce housing, which could attract economic development in the area.

A housing assessment says there are not enough homes to support growth in Wilkes County. It found low housing stock in many areas, from high priced homes to affordable rentals. 

According to a study conducted last year by a national research firm, more than 6800 households in Wilkes County are considered cost burdened, or are paying disproportionally high shares of their income on housing costs. Wilkesboro town manager Ken Noland says providing affordable housing is a problem that many rural communities are facing.

"And those are the hardest homes to get because you have an employee who has to reach to pay for it and you’ve got a developer who has to give up something to build it because he’s not going to make the same profit margin," says Noland. "How do you bridge that gap — and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Noland says workforce housing is one of the biggest needs. He says local leaders are discussing the issue with Tyson Foods whose Wilkesboro plant draws workers from several counties and employs around 3,000 people.

According to the study, most of the projected growth in the overall county will occur among households ages 75 and older between 2020 and 2025, followed by households between the ages of 65 and 74. It says many of these senior households will likely want or require different housing to meet their changing housing needs as they age.

Smaller households are also projected to grow over the next five years and will require a need for smaller unit types in Wilkes County.

Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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