Raleigh, NC

Residents protest changes to Raleigh’s zoning code

The Triangle Tribune

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Raleigh is becoming a city of haves and have-nots.File

By Mia Khatib

mia.khatib@triangletribune.com

RALEIGH — Concerned residents gathered outside the Raleigh City Council last week to protest the recent changes to the city’s zoning regulations.

In an effort to increase affordable housing, the Council passed a housing plan last summer to allow more building types in residential neighborhoods and eliminate density restrictions. In May, the ordinance text was amended to allow more development near transportation hubs.

However, Frank Hielema, a member of the neighborhood advocacy group, Save Our Neighborhoods, said the Council made the changes “without notification of the public other than their notice in the newspaper.”

Hielema said he only became aware of the policy, known as “Missing Middle,” six weeks ago when he was informed that one of the most historic properties in his neighborhood, Hayes Barton, would be demolished and replaced with 17 townhomes to be sold at $2 million each.

“Duplexes, triplexes, quadruplexes or even apartment houses [can be built] on either side of your single family home,” Hielema said. “[A home] is the American dream. It's what people save for; it's their greatest investment for most people, and, suddenly, you have no control.”

Wanda Hunter, a candidate for District C, said the Council puts profits before people. Last year members wanted to demolish a city-owned quadruplex off of Lynn Road.

“So, if you're talking about that, we need more different types of naturally occurring affordable housing, why didn't we rehabilitate that housing?” she asked. “You can't rebuild and make it affordable, but you can rehabilitate and make it affordable.”

Hunter said Council members don’t consider the wealth gap or view affordable housing through an equity lens.

“A Black woman makes 75 cents for every dollar that the white man makes. So, if you tell me that housing is 80% of the [area median income], then it's telling me that it's like 110% of the AMI for a Black woman,” she said. “When we look at the numbers, 80% of the AMI is like $90,000 to $100,000 now, but in the Black community, we don’t even make that… so how do we even qualify for 80% of the AMI? We don’t. This Council hasn’t even taken that into account.”

Christina Jones, a candidate for District E, said the Council eliminated residents’ voices when it abolished the Citizens Advisory Council in 2020.

“Because [Missing Middle] was a text change, [the Council] did not have to have the same public hearings that a rezoning did so these residents didn’t know about Missing Middle 1.0, let alone 2.0. All this was done under their radar,” Jones said. “And now, instead of having a whole CAC district talk about a rezoning, they only alert 500 square feet worth of people for these neighborhood meetings that they have with the developers.”

Public commenters used to be able to bring in 36x36-inch signs to Council meetings, but are now limited to 18x18-inch signs, Jones said. Meetings are recorded, livestreamed and uploaded to YouTube, and the recordings used to show community members preparing to give their remarks.

“They’ve moved us, and they put staff there now so that you can’t see the signs,” Jones said. “All of this is just a way to squelch free speech and community conversation in lieu of their interests.”

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