In teaching economic development at NC State, I ask my students to investigate the private and public sector investments that should be made in communities across North Carolina. Raleigh has one of the strongest economies in the U.S., so they typically choose other communities for their research. And yet many residents here are still excluded from our city’s economic vitality. We have disparities in education, income, employment, and home ownership that must be addressed.
I am committed to economic inclusion – empowering lower income households to increase their wages and assets. Pay has not kept up with inflation, and we feel it at the grocery store, the gas station. The bottom 50 percent of income earners – half of American workers – have experienced zero income growth since 1980 (Brookings 2017).
In Raleigh, female, African-American, and Latino/a/x workers remain underrepresented in the tech industry and STEM workforce, key areas of growth in our region. The public and private sectors have a role to play in disrupting inequitable economic forces and influencing the market to bring about shared prosperity.
So just what can the city of Raleigh do? These are some of my policy ideas. I’d love to hear yours!
Economic inclusion: Next steps for Raleigh
- Increase the rate of business ownership for women and people of color. Tens of thousands more residents could have living wage jobs if minority business ownership was at parity with whites.
- Pursue rent control at the state level. Only the NC General Assembly has the power to enable affordable rent rates, for example a cap on yearly increases. Raleigh City Council should advocate for such a policy on behalf of residents.
- Provide relocation assistance for residents who are displaced due to rising costs and gentrification. This is a program that other growing cities have implemented. Seattle shares the costs of such a program with property owners.
- Create a property tax relief fund for long time, low income homeowners. Housing prices continue to rise dramatically and along with that are skyrocketing property taxes which disproportionately burden low-income residents.
- Establish additional and monitor success of existing affordable housing density bonuses. Raleigh’s new transit overlay districts, as currently designed, provide 50% density bonuses for properties that include a minimum of 20% of units at 60% area median household income or less. We need to evaluate whether these incentives are successful and determine how to encourage additional private investment.
- Meet and confer with labor rights organizations and unions that lead the bottom-up fight against economic inequities, person by person, block by block.
- Coordinate practice and policy with workforce development boards, community development organizations, social service agencies, faith groups, and other civic and public institutions that commit to economic inclusion.
Brookings Institute [Parilla, Joseph]. 2017. Opportunity for growth: How reducing barriers to economic inclusion can benefit workers, firms, and local economies. https://www.brookings.edu/research/opportunity-for-growth-how-reducing-barriers-to-economic-inclusion-can-benefit-workers-firms-and-local-economies/