On Thursday November 7th, the Isothermal Planning and Development Commission (the Commission) hosted its first Regional Housing Summit in Rutherfordton. The Isothermal Regional Commission is the council of governments (COG) for the area of western North Carolina known as the Isothermal region, consisting of Cleveland, McDowell, Polk, and Rutherford counties. The Coalition participated as an event sponsor and Director of Housing Policy, Pamela Atwood, presented data and information on the impacts of housing instability and unaffordability on households statewide and in the region.
The Commission organized the event due to increased concern over housing issues. Many of the Commission’s local government members were beginning to identify housing as a major issue in their jurisdictions. Facing concerns about rising housing costs, aging populations, older housing stock, and potential growth pushing out from the Charlotte region, the Commission convened regional stakeholders including non-profit organizations, public housing authorities, local government officials, businesses, and health and social services providers.
The summit was intended as a “kick-off” for a coordinated regional approach to addressing housing issues and follows past focus group discussions. The Commission is taking a data-driven approach to identify both the specific housing-related problems for the region and the methods that might be used to alleviate those issues. Earlier in 2019, consultants were commissioned to conduct a regional housing market study and conduct a survey of local governments modeled after the reporting mandate of S.B. 318/S.L. 2019-144. The market study identified that 109,612 housing units exist in the Isothermal Region, with 51.44% or 56,381 of those units having been built before 1980.
The results of the market study and survey were presented at the summit. Following each presentation, attendees separated into break-out discussions where they were challenged to answer “deeper dive” questions and engage in brainstorming activities. The Commission documented each group’s discussions and will be publishing the results in the near future. In the meantime, the presentations and data reviewed during the summit are available on their website. The Commission plans to build on the summit with subsequent policy development events and to develop a targeted housing strategy for the region.