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Community Leaders Take Stock Of Housing Crisis, Offer Creative Solutions

Becca Scott of the Southwestern Commission
Housing stakeholders from local county commissioners to representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Labor came together to discuss WNC housing issues.

  It’s no secret that there is a housing problem in Western North Carolina. Prices are booming as the demand for mountain homes outweighs the supply in all price brackets.

Representatives from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, U.S. Department of Agriculture, local nonprofits, county commissioners and many more came together to talk about how to bring more affordable housing to the area at a housing and economic development summit in Sylva, NC.


Sarah Thompson, executive director of Southwestern Commission, explained why her organization wanted to host the event and how local communities are taking matters into their own hands to solve this issue.


“We have a low income median wage in this region and high housing costs and the two just don’t go together,” says Thompson. “We’re meeting a kind of a tipping point where we need to find some creative solutions to address that because the private sector and the private developers are not addressing it.“

Affordable housing is stigmatized as just a hand out to the poor according to NC Housing Coalition Policy Officer Tyran Hill. But he explained at the summit that it is actually defined as any housing where the family is only spending 30 percent of their income or less on housing costs.

Clay, one of smallest counties in the state, is hit hardest by the area housing crisis. A family living on the county’s average annual salary is almost $3,000 a year short to rent a 2 bedroom apartment.


All seven of the westernmost counties, which make up the Southwestern Commission’s Region A, report about 30 percent of the population have a hard time paying for their housing.

Every county tackles the same problems in different ways through combinations of nonprofit work, grant funding and local government support. By sharing notes, they hope to be able to find solutions that work in every county instead of reinventing the wheel each time.


Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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