Four months ago, Enir Oseguera moved with his young family to one of Cary’s last affordable housing communities,
The immigrant father had been saving money and thought he’d found the right place for his two children to thrive at the Chatham Estates mobile home park, a diverse community where rent is $400 a month.
Soon after the move, however, Oseguera learned the land the community was on was up for sale, putting hundreds of people who live there at risk of displacement and homelessness.
“What do we do?” he asked. “We all know the cost of renting an apartment even nowadays and then buying property, well, that’s more of a question for many people.”
At a Cary Town Council candidates forum Monday night, Oseguera was one of three Chatham Estates residents who asked the candidates for help.
The mobile home park, owned by Curtis Westbrook Sr., of Cary’s Westbrook & Associates, mostly houses Latinos who moved to the town from elsewhere in Wake County or other countries. Many have young children and work at nearby businesses.
They’ve been told that if the property sells, they may get $20,000, about what their homes cost. But there is no certainty they will get that amount or be able find another place to move their trailer.
Chatham Estates has not yet been sold to developers who have plans to tear down the mobile home park and the businesses in Chatham Square at the corner of SE Maynard Road and East Chatham Street. The property could be sold for about $50 million, according to Lee & Associates, the listing agent.
Still, park residents are appealing to candidates in Cary’s Oct. 10 municipal election for help and to stay in town.
Candidates make commitments
ONE Wake, a nonprofit, hosted Monday night’s forum, which featured five of the nine candidates for Town Council. The nonpartisan organization has supported the town’s affordable housing efforts, including rezoning 921 SE Maynard Road as an area designed for affordable housing for residents who make 30% of the area median income.
The Cary Housing Plan supports families trying to buy homes by providing financial aid to buyers, incentives to developers for affordable homes, developing affordable homes on town-owned land, and funding emergency housing programs to keep residents in their homes.
ONE Wake is also asking candidates to support churches and other nonprofits developing their own affordable housing. It also wants the Town Council to make sure the potential redevelopment of Cary’s town hall campus includes affordable homes.
“In Cary today, rising home prices and rents are straining housing options for middle- and low-income households,” said Mycal Brickhouse, the pastor of Cary First Christian Church. “Teachers, nurses, construction workers, food and retail service workers increasingly cannot afford to live in town.”
Since 2010, Cary has added about 20,000 jobs in those occupations, but the availability of homes they can afford has shrunk. The town has lost about 4,000 housing units that cost less than $1,000 a month to rent.
At-large Council member Lori Bush and Mayor Pro Tem Don Frantz, who represents District B, attended the forum alongside candidates Michelle Craig for District B, Mary Insprucker for at-large, and Rachel Jordan for District D.
All of the candidates publicly agreed to advocate for the residents and spoke briefly about their plans if elected.
“My mother was a single mother, and we lived in subsidized housing,” said Bush. “I know what it’s like to wonder where your head will lay in the evening and to wonder where your next meal will come from.”
Bush and current council members have supported using the town’s federal Community Development Block Grant money on housing initiatives.
Jordan described moving to Cary from Washington, DC, after the loss of her job and her baby’s death from birth complications.
“I understand that fear,” she said, “I understand that sense of not being able to sleep at night because you don’t know where you’re going to go.”
Frantz, Insprucker and Craig shared their own struggles and commitment to residents who “deserve a right to live in Cary.”
“I do believe in mixed-income developments. .. I do believe affordable housing development on church-owned land is a fantastic, brilliant idea,” Insprucker said. “Especially with so little land left in Cary. I also believe that (this) has to be done the right way according to the Cary Community Plan and Cary Housing Plan.”
Early voting runs from Thursday through Oct. 7.