The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and the Outer Banks Community Development Corporation sponsored the seminar, “Future Trends in Land and Living” held last week at the Hilton Garden Inn. CDC officials gave attendees an update on the 6-year progress of the organization which includes workforce housing under construction in KDH; a partnership with Dare County for workforce housing on Roanoke Island; and housing counseling services, etc. William Hettinger, the key speaker for the 2006 Living and Working in Paradise seminar, gave a brief overview of information and statistics shared at that event with regards to affordable housing. One of the most alarming statistics was the declining percentage of Dare County residents that are able to afford a median-priced home. In 1990 – 41% (3800) of residents could afford the median priced home; in 2000 – 48% (6100) of residents; and in 2005 only a small 4% (547) of residents could afford the median-priced home. The impact the increase in property values has on the economy include: challenge to attract workers; existing workers/residents “cash out” of housing and move to less expensive place; commute time and distance to work increases thus affecting turnover/absenteeism; wage costs increase; and service levels decline. This trend makes it difficult to grow existing businesses and attract new non-tourism businesses.
Anthony Flint, a futurist and journalist from the Lincoln Land Institute, followed Mr. Hettinger and talked about the current buzz in environmental awareness and the desire for economic diversity. “Regional land use planning is the way we’ve got to do business and we must approach together the issues of affordable housing, sustainability and economic growth,” he stated. In the past, housing and the workplace have been rigidly separated but people are beginning to shift from buying their “castle” in outlying sprawl areas to moving or relocating to a smaller dwelling closer to where they work. Mr. Flint discussed the need for compacted, mixed-use development projects to address the above issues and referenced projects in Atlanta, Charlotte and Tysons Corner that have attracted buyers in record numbers. He expressed the need for “recycling” land and older buildings by remembering to “Re-Develop First!” Another suggestion he made was to bundle together the agencies dealing with housing, transportation and the environment and have them coordinate their efforts. He concluded by challenging the crowd to work on a common message, “We Need Housing”, and to look at strategic ways to develop housing.