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Southwestern Commission Affordable Housing Consortium Deadline Extended

Lilly Knoepp
Blue Ridge Public Radio
The WNC Housing Consortium would be led by Haywood County. The Southwestern Commission is applying for the project with HUD at the end of July.

The timeline for counties in Western North Carolina to take part in an affordable housing deal has been extended. 

Located in Murphy, theHulburt Johnson Friendship House is the westernmost homeless shelter in the state. It has just 33 beds and serves men, women and children. 

“Housing is at a premium here. You don’t have a lot of housing, period.” 

That’s house manager Patricia Meeks. She says there are many reasons people experience homelessness, but a lack of affordable housing is part of the equation. 

“Right now our waiting list for HUD housing is two years,” says Meeks.

A project through the Southwestern Commission looks to bring more funding from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, better known as HUD.  

The Southwestern Commission has been working to get the seven westernmost counties to come together to get the additional funding. Russ Harris with the commission says they now have until the end of the month.  

“If somebody else decided that they wanted to join then we could get that agreement,” says Harris, director of Community and Economic Development for the commission. 

Haywood County would lead what would be called The WNC Housing Consortium.  It could bring as much as $650,000 from HUD into the region each year. The money could be used for many different types of affordable housing projects explains Harris.

“Rental assistance, down payment assistance, it can be purchase of property, construction, rehabilitation,” says Harris. 

Counties that are part of the consortium will not be required to have an affordable housing program.

Out of the seven counties, all have signed on except Cherokee County. Thirteen out of the seventeen towns in the region have also agreed to be in the consortium.

“To be eligible for the most much money possible we need as many governments to sign on as we can. I mean that’s kind of the trick to the whole thing. The demographics for all of the towns and counties go into the formula to help determine how much money comes to the region,” says Harris. 

The Southwestern Commission will manage the funding for the project. The commission is a government entity for the seven westernmost counties.  Dogwood Health Trust is partnering with the consortium to pay the buy in for the first year of the deal with HUD. 

Harris expects to hear if the consortium is approved by HUD around September. 

Back at the Friendship House, Patricia Meeks hopes to receive some funding from the program since the Town of Murphy has signed onto the consortium.


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.