Dare County affordable housing partners still looking for potential sites  

By on November 4, 2023

Woda Cooper eyeing former Kelly’s restaurant location in Nags Head

Woda Cooper is looking at the site of the former Kelly’s restaurant. (Google maps)

As Dare County turns to the affordable housing task force in the hopes of creating consensus and advancing efforts to build more affordable housing, its two development partners are continuing to search for viable sites, according to Dare County Manager Bobby Outten.

The creation of the task force was approved at an Oct. 2 Dare County Commissioners meeting, and it came in the wake of failed efforts to build housing developments in Manteo, Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills. It will be comprised of officials from each of the county’s six towns as well as representatives of such organizations as the Outer Banks Restaurant Association, the Outer Banks Hotel/Motel Association and the Outer Banks Home Builders Association.

Dare County Commissioner Chairman Bob Woodard has said the task force will not convene its first meeting until after the Nov. 7 municipal elections, and Outten characterized its mission as broader than just building a few housing projects.

“This task force means collaboratively; we’ve got to find a way to solve this problem in the long term. And it’s not just a Dare County problem…we have to get everybody on board and then come up with common ground and common ways to figure out how to solve what everybody I think has agreed is a problem,” he said.

The effort to build such housing was recently complicated by a special provision dropped into the state budget that restricts municipalities’ ability to regulate affordable housing projects in their communities that would be funded with $35 million the state has awarded the county. Municipal leaders were both surprised and angered by that provision and all six towns have signed onto an Oct. 6 lawsuit challenging that provision. Both Woodard and Outten have declined to comment on that litigation.

In the meantime, Outten said that the county’s development partners, Woda Cooper and Coastal Affordable Housing, “have been looking at sites continuously and as one site gets ruled out by a town, then they look at other sites. Both groups are doing that as we speak with various sites…and then they have to have dialogue with whatever community they’re going to do it in to make sure they can do it.”

Woda Cooper has a pot of $12 million in county funding to work with. The $35 million in state funding at the heart of the controversial budget provision has been earmarked for the Coastal Affordable Housing group.

Asked about how far these efforts to find new potential housing locations have advanced, Outten noted that “I think there have been some conversations” between the developers and some municipal leaders. But he called it “a feeling out process,” that has not reached a “formal” stage.

Outten declined to mention specific sites under consideration, but in an email to the Voice, Woda Cooper Senior Vice President for Development Denis Blackburne said the vacant Nags Head site that once housed Mike Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant & Tavern “is a potential site we are considering.” Kelly sold the property to German grocer Lidl in 2017, which never built a store there, and it was subsequently sold again in 2022.

Both Blackburne and Nags Head Town Manager Andy Garman indicated that the two parties have not discussed any location for a new housing proposal.

Asked how long the county will continue to work with Woda Cooper and Coastal Affordable Housing, Outten said the clock is not ticking in a “legal” sense. “As long as we’re making progress and as long as we’re seeing eye to eye on the deal, then we’ll keep working.”

As for how long it might take to finally launch a housing project, the county manager offered that “I’d like to think that within the next year, we have a site selected. Whether you can get it designed, engineered and start breaking ground within a year, I don’t know.”



  • Rocky the Rockfish

    We, the taxpayers, should not be funding “affordable housing” for rich business owners.
    The business owners should pay employees more.
    Of course, we keep electing business owners as our representatives and they vote and pass bills to benefit themselves.
    Most of these business owners do not even give health benefits to employees and pay as little as possible.
    Corporate socialism is alive and well in Dare county

    Saturday, Nov 4 @ 3:02 pm
  • Tyrrell Johnson

    Section 8 housing projects lawfully need to be provided, stop trying to keep your strip of sand a country club for, “you know who…”

    Saturday, Nov 4 @ 6:21 pm
  • Ann Broadhead

    With regard to housing; it would be reasonable to lease or purchase land to build housing on a plot of land in southern Currituck County.
    It could be just across the Kitty Hawk bridge.
    Since the workers would be able to be close to employment in Dare County, this would allow for many options to provide solutions.
    Land is not going to just appear out here. Waiting for that is futile. I see several trailers that have sat idle for a few years.(off Martin St, on big lots each. s side)

    Saturday, Nov 4 @ 8:34 pm
  • Koo Flocks

    I 🤔 the problem lies among those who own the choice tracts of land, developers and local planning boards. They have to realize that workers and families need affordable housing in order to contribute to the local economy.

    Saturday, Nov 4 @ 11:31 pm
  • RicknKDH

    Building affordable “6 mos” housing in Dare County is a waste of time. Anybody with a 3rd grade education knows the answer is to build just across the bridge. We, the voters, will continue to run politicians that push this silly agenda out of office. Bye Ben!

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 1:41 am
  • Apartments for Non-locals

    Rocky is right on, but it is even worse than just spending taxpayer’s money for subsidized apartments to subsidize local businesses. It is also spending taxpayer’s money for subsidized apartments for non-local people and non-working (retired) people.

    The Dare County commissioners are spending taxpayer’s money in a way that will permit non-local people, including retired seniors, to move to Dare County and rent subsidized apartments near the beach. This will just increase demand for services and make our local worker housing shortage even worse.

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 6:19 am
  • Spoonyrae

    Why in the world does someone in Dare County think Currituck is the answer to you issues?

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 7:08 am
  • The Captain

    Affordable Housing, yes, necessary but why do they insist and putting it in “Prime” locations which are unsuitable for this type of development. Whether it be physical or natural barriers, zoning or public opinion the companies contracted for this project “Just Don’t Get It”. You will get no resistance on the Dare Mainland or Currituck County.

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 7:14 am
  • Jay

    Ann the question of why not Currituck has been asked in the comment section of The Outer Banks Voice many times.

    Mark J. do you have an official for the record answer to “why not Currituck” from our Dare County Commissioners for this often asked question?

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 8:31 am
  • ed

    Overall, most of the employers on the OBX treat their employees as disposable.

    And overall, it is the worst of those employers who squawk the loudest about housing.

    Why the rush to get our tax dollars stolen by greedy developers to help those guys? Of all people? Let’s spend the money on something where we don’t get ripped off.

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 8:38 am
  • Tyrrell Johnson

    Ann Broadhead, another one trying to protect her “country club” from the “lesser person”… Why do those in need of affordable housing need to be banished to the mainland?

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 8:43 am
  • Thinking Cap

    Why would they be considering Kelly’s old tract? Chances are, any of these families that could potentially move into these places would have small children and pets. That is way too close to a busy highway, in my opinion. Couple that with with drunk or careless drivers, and it’s just heartbreak waiting to happen. Not to mention the millions of strangers that visit every year. Weren’t folks just trying to snatch kids from the Walmart parking lot in broad daylight not too long ago? If this is truly to be a “helpful” endeavor, maybe a little more focus on the needs of the actual people, instead of the money or how much control a newborn task force might have on the structures would be in order.

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 9:29 am
  • Not in Currituck

    Building worker housing in Currituck County for Dare County businesses is never going to happen. At the May 1, 2023 Currituck County Commissioners meeting, in a speech that drew applause from the audience, Commissioner Selina Jarvis who represents southern Currituck County said;

    “Every time I have a conversation with someone in Dare County they mention ‘my neck of the woods,’ Lower Currituck, and how they would love to find some land to put workforce housing. And it disgusts me that they are not willing to solve their own problems … I will fight for Lower Currituck with all that I have. Workforce housing for Dare County is something that I will never, ever, ever sign onto in Lower Currituck.”

    It just ain’t gonna happen.

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 9:38 am
  • Chris Smith

    Ok I’m gonna say this one more time @ the captain you people that live on the beach have lost your mind, you think every parcel of land is prime. Just say it . I’m waiting to really hear it out of some spoiled rotten rich ass person’s mouth ” THE HELP CAN’T LIVE WITH THE RICH “. it’s not curritucks problem, it’s not Manns harbor problem, it’s not east lakes problem, it’s your problem fix it on your own land.@ spoonrae they think were toothless poor people over here and will kiss their ass don’t bring your problem over here

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 10:40 am
  • Dylan

    More creativity is needed to impact this issue. Building congreate housing seems like an unworkable plan. Like waiving taxes and guaranteeing through subsidies rental income for properties off the beach that commit to long term rentals.

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 10:46 am
  • Rico Suave

    Ah yes, the valuable strip of sand, home of Sugar Kingdoms, fast food joints, putt putt golf courses and Super Wings… Can’t put anything affordable through that valuable stretch of America… no way at all…

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 4:42 pm
  • Travis

    I had a talk with a local restaurateur about this not long ago. I won’t name him/her, but I guarantee you anybody that has lived here more than three years probably knows who they are.

    The Restauranteur has had to purchase residences here which they rent to their employees because it was impossible to guarantee staffing just based on who was available in the area. The employees get a good deal on the rent, but of course they’re living 4 or 5 individuals to a house, which isn’t ideal for family situations. But it works well enough that the restaurant stays mostly staffed up and the Restauranteur doesn’t go into crisis mode at the end of every season when the kids go back to school.

    Other business owners are somewhat less scrupulous than my acquaintance. They rent beds rather than rooms, and take advantage of J1 workers and workers with, shall we say, questionable legal status. So you wind up sharing a bedroom with 3 or 4 strangers at an exorbitant rate.

    The point is that businesses here are finding ways to bring employees “affordable housing” even if it isn’t exactly “desirable housing.” Rather than try to ram a housing project down the throat of a municipality that doesn’t want it, maybe the approach should be looking at taking all those millions in construction money and finding ways to make life a little better for those people who are here and who are working.

    Sunday, Nov 5 @ 11:30 pm
  • Charles

    I dont see the problem here in the Tri Villages. Right now there two huge 8 bedroom residences being built for 2024 in Salvo. Could easily fit 20 people in each comfortably. I just checked the rental rates for next season and I feel if we could find a few hundred people to share each of the 8 bedrooms houses they will be able to afford it and our year round crisis is solved.

    Parking may be a problem, but we will tackle that in 2025.

    Monday, Nov 6 @ 9:32 am
  • Part Time OBX

    For those above that are in favor of these projects – please contact the 2 companies for offers on selling your home/land to them, and when you get the offer, be sure to tell your neighbors that your moving and to who you sold it to. And when they all revolt on you and your family, just remember, it was all for the betterment of the community as a whole! The most important point here is that it’s not about you – or me – it’s about the whole Community! And if the Community chooses they don’t want it, then that’s what should be honored. Put it up for Town/County vote – and if the Voters don’t want to even consider it – then that should be honored, and move on.

    Monday, Nov 6 @ 10:34 am
  • TouristDestination

    Please name one tourist destination that has “affordable housing.” When you find them, give them a call and ask for their housing advice. How about talk to Lee with the Tourism Board. He knows how to get folks here. Ask the Tourism Board. They love to spend your Occupancy Tax. What is occupancy tax supposed to be used for: to offset and balance tourism.

    Monday, Nov 6 @ 10:46 am