MATTHEWS – Members of the Matthews Board of Commissioners were ready to commit as much as $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding toward affordable housing needs Sept. 13.
But Town Manager Hazen Blodgett recommended commissioners not to go on record with an amount.
“We still don’t have final rules from the federal government, which is driving us bonkers,” Blodgett told the board.
Commissioners Larry Whitley and Ken McCool were the most vocal about earmarking $3 million toward affordable housing. Whitley said having a pot of money would be helpful as developers approach the town with housing projects.
Whitley saw a need in the Crestdale community, particularly for ages 55 and older. He said people of color could not afford other retirement communities around town.
McCool said he thinks about the firefighters, police officers and teachers who work in Matthews but have to live elsewhere.
“We want to make sure that those who can work here can live here,” McCool said. “How often are we going to get $10.5 million from the federal government and them let us do this?”
Mayor John Higdon said he agreed with Whitley and McCool but acknowledged staff had some concerns about moving forward without the details.
“I keep using the term that we are tiptoeing around affordable housing,” he said. “We get a few units here, a few units there. But we haven’t done anything really substantial.”
Putting $3 million toward affordable housing would be a statement to the community, Higdon said, adding that partnering with a nonprofit housing agency could make that money go really far and help a lot of people.
Blodgett said he agreed philosophically with commissioners about tackling affordable housing, but there were too many unknowns associated with spending the money.
“The rules of engagement are clear,” he said. “They aren’t finalized.”
Town staff will begin a housing needs and market analysis as well as consult with groups like the N.C. League of Municipalities and N.C. Pro to figure out the justifications for an affordable housing program.