Dare Board hears proposals for ‘essential housing’

By on August 25, 2019

Board Chairman Bob Woodard

Dare County’s initiative to encourage more reasonably priced housing for year-round workers is more than a year old. But the search for exactly what to call it continues on.

In June 2018, the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce made a presentation to the Dare County Commissioners asking them to consider zoning changes, including allowing accessory dwelling units and more multi-family structures and increasing dwelling densities per acre. Those measures, officials say, were designed to address a critical shortage of affordable housing that poses an obstacle to attracting skilled workers to Dare County, thus harming the local economy.

Last October, the commissioners approved those amendments. And a few days ago, at their Aug. 19 meeting, they discussed another set of proposed amendments recommended by the Dare County Planning Board to again address the housing crunch. They included an expansion of cluster homes, creating educational housing projects and conditional use subdivisions and allowing accessory dwellings in conjunction with commercial structures.

The new cluster home proposal would add eight new zoning districts in unincorporated areas not included in last year’s amendments. The educational housing option, associated with county educational institutions, would be available in 25 zoning districts. The conditional use subdivisions would involve reducing the minimum lot size to 12,500 square feet with a dwelling size limitation of 1,200 square feet. Another proposal would allow housing in conjunction with a commercial use in 17 commercial zoning districts.

After hearing Dare County Planning Director Donna Creef present these ideas at their Aug. 19 meeting, the commissioners scheduled a Sept. 16 public hearing to solicit citizen input on the new zoning amendments.

That meeting may have also introduced a new term to the public policy vernacular surrounding this issue when Board of Commissioners Chair Bob Woodard, described the goal as the creation of “essential housing.”

“I don’t like to use the term ‘affordable’ any more,” he added. And noting that the phrase was now being used by Woodard, Creef also referred to the effort to create “essential housing” during her presentation of the new zoning proposals to the board.

The idea of publicly using the words “affordable housing,” to describe these efforts was rejected some time ago. Almost for the outset, Woodard made it clear that the he did not like the term “affordable housing” when presenting and promoting the initiative. Some of that was connected with the NIMBY (“not in my back yard”) stigma.

“I don’t think ‘affordable’ is the right word,” Chamber of Commerce President Karen Brown said in an interview last year, “because it seems to conjure up things that people don’t want next to them, like Section 8 [low-income HUD subsidized] housing.'”

Other phrases were bandied about. Brown indicated that the Chamber had been referring to the initiative as simply, “housing.” Because the focus has been on creating residential opportunities for full-time, rather than seasonal summer workers, Creef had used the term “year-round housing.” Occasionally, the phrase “workforce housing” has entered the conversation.

Whether finding a name that sticks will have any impact on the popularity or effectiveness of the drive to encourage more housing for year-round workers is hard to know. And whatever ends up being the best name for the solution, Commissioner Danny Couch has his own creative terminology for the housing problem.

“We’re working to solve the problem that has plagued us,” he told his fellow board members on Aug. 19. “It’s like the flu. It won’t go away.”



  • Otis

    I think there’s an easy solution to this perceived problem: All you business/government folks who need more and even better employees, just start paying them what they deserve then they can afford to live here on the OBX without zoning changes.

    Sunday, Aug 25 @ 10:18 am
  • Stan Clough

    Essential Housing. A good start. What is essential ? A balance between development and government interests, thats local governments, which are out of control. Maybe its time to incorporate Dare County !

    Sunday, Aug 25 @ 10:33 am
  • surf123

    The various agencies can call it what they want, but it is housing that no person who rents out their home wants next to them. They tried to do this in Waves and the buyers eventually left allowing Real Kiteboarding to purchase them all and they now rent them out as part of their lodging. The problem with plans like these is that the best use for any building in Dare, except for on the mainland, is as a tourist rental. There is no way to change or fix this. It is a resort and people want to visit.

    Monday, Aug 26 @ 10:20 am
  • Part Time OBXer

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is plenty of space and land available for ‘essential’ housing right on the other side of the bridge! You can’t put this type of project in or around the outer banks. No one will rent near it, and owners of homes and hotels will fight it. There is a need for housing that is close by, and right on the mainland side, there is plenty of options available. All sorts of open land and for sale signs all up and down 158 from Barco to Point Harbor. Thank you, but no thank you!

    Monday, Aug 26 @ 1:28 pm
  • spoonyrae

    You have a ever so small problem with your solution…..Dare County doesn’t own Currituck, times have changed, you’ll have to fix your own problem

    Tuesday, Aug 27 @ 2:10 pm
  • Windy Bill

    The ‘NIMBY’ crowd needs to shut the hell up. The people that would live in so called low cost housing are good working people. The kind of people that allow a society to function. The ‘section 8’ housing I’ve seen around here is tightly regulated, watched, and there is next to no chance that a ‘den’ of any kind would occur there. For those who can only stand to live with their own kind of people, there are age restricted communities well away from here where they could be unbothered, uncaring, and happy.

    Tuesday, Aug 27 @ 1:24 pm