The 2020 presidential election already heating up, despite there being almost 500 days until election day, but it’s important to keep in mind that the presidency is far from the only office that deserves our attention. Indeed, in terms of its impact on our day-to-day lives as Raleigh residents, the Raleigh City Council election coming up in October of this year is possibly the more important race of the two.
This year, incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane is not seeking another term, meaning the race is truly up for grabs. While candidate filing doesn’t begin until July, a few candidates have expressed an interest in running already, and a recent poll gave some insight into the public’s opinion on the race. According to the poll, 60% of voters are unsure who to support — which is to be expected at this early stage — but 2017 mayoral runner-up Charles Francis was leading in the poll with 17% support.
The poll also asked respondents what they saw as the biggest issue in the election. Again, voters were divided, but the top response was “ensuring housing costs are affordable,” with 23%, followed closely by the similar issue of “managing growth and construction” at 19%. This result underscores that whoever ends up running, the next mayor will likely need a well-thought-out plan on how to add more affordable housing to the Raleigh area.
This is an issue of prime importance for NC State students, especially with our own on-campus housing struggles forcing more students to seek housing off campus. Additionally, as graduating students seek jobs and start building up financial stability, access to low-cost housing near the job-rich market in Raleigh is a huge benefit.
Partly because of the thriving economy in the Triangle, Wake County sees a great deal of population growth — around 60 people a day, according to The News & Observer. This has led to serious upward pressure on housing prices. Today, over 100,000 households in Wake are “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of monthly income on housing.
Under Mayor McFarlane, Raleigh has seen the implementation of programs aimed at providing more affordable housing, and a bond proposal is currently being considered that would spend $38-76 million on land, tax credits and financial assistance, paid for by a small increase in property taxes. However, given the size of the issue, this bond likely won’t be enough on its own to solve the problem.
Another crucial aspect to the housing issue is ensuring that new developments are sustainably built, with a mind toward limiting traffic and maintaining green spaces. The City of Oaks prides itself on its greenways and tree-lined roads, and new housing should encourage people to walk, bike and take public transit by building near stations and preserving the quality of the outdoors within the city.
Students who care about their bank accounts and their environment, both while at school and after graduation, should pay attention to the race for mayor, as well as those for the rest of the city council. Nancy McFarlane won reelection with just under 32,000 votes in 2017, less than the total number of enrolled students at NC State. Granted, not every student is registered to vote in Raleigh, but those who are could have a real impact on who ultimately wins, for the benefit of all NC State students.