Key Partners • City of Greensboro – NDD, Planning • Guilford County and Guilford County Schools • Greensboro Housing Authority
Selling public land at a discount in exchange for affordable housing development is a common tool within North Carolina and across the country. Land costs typically represent 20% of total project development costs, and a discounted acquisition price can significantly increase a project’s development feasibility. Disposition of public land provides a jurisdiction a means to support affordable housing development at little to no upfront cost. Public land can include a city’s existing land assets, as well as land acquisitions through private property donations and foreclosures. The disposition of publicly-owned land at below-market value is legal in North Carolina, so long as valuable public benefits are provided in exchange. In North Carolina, the provision of affordable housing is considered a public purpose, assuming the private market will not meet the need on its own. The state defines an affordable housing “project” as one where at least 20% of the units are affordable to and occupied by households with incomes at or below 60% of the area median income. If a property is going to be used for affordable housing, the local government can use “private sale” procedures to convey it to the buyer of its choice and avoid the standard competitive bidding process. The City should develop an inventory of publicly owned land in Greensboro, including sites under its control as well as land assets of other public entities. A necessary first step is building an inventory of all City-owned parcels. The City should then engage with Guilford County, Guilford County Schools, and other public entities to create a more complete inventory of vacant and underutilized publicly-owned land in Greensboro that could support future affordable housing development . After establishing this inventory, the City should develop evaluation criteria to filter through publicly-owned parcels to identify sites most suitable for future affordable housing development. The City should consider a joint acquisition policy with Guilford County. Since the County oversees the process of acquiring land via tax foreclosure, a joint acquisition approach can help the City expand the inventory of publicly-owned sites available for affordable housing development. The City should explore opportunities to dispose of publicly-owned land at free or reduced cost to support production of affordable rental housing. Publicly – owned vacant and underutilized parcels are significant assets at a jurisdiction’s disposal. Offering such land to affordable housing developers at free or reduced cost can help close the feasibility gap to enable new development and increase the City’s supply of affordable rental homes.
1. Create an inventory of publicly-owned land that could accommodate future affordable housing development. 2. Design a policy and program to allow free or reduced cost land disposition for affordable housing projects, with rigorous requirements to maximize public benefit on donated or sold land.
3. Develop a strategy to guide priority parcel identification and disposition.