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A local community group is asking Watauga County Commissioners to adopt a minimum housing standard. 27 counties have adopted similar standards that give renters a viable way to handle unaddressed maintenance or safety issues with the county, instead of pursuing legal action.

Counties employ minimum housing standards to ensure renters have basic needs met by addressing things like:

Safe and functional electric, plumbing, and heating systems Intact floors, foundations, and stairs
Windows and doors that are weather-tight and pest-proof

“Our discussions with renters have shown some people have been forced to live in suboptimal housing situations,” said Alana Baird, a member of Down Home NC’s Watauga chapter, which is leading the effort. “Not only would a minimum housing standard improve housing for renters, it would also keep housing stock in the market, requiring houses to be improved prior to them being condemned, and therefore taken off the housing market,” Baird said.

Providing support for renters and affordable housing is a critical issue, according to Baird. A recent study by Bowen Research projected a housing gap of 5,177 rental housing units in the High Country. Additionally, the report showed a 99% rental occupancy rate, forcing many renters to accept or tolerate potentially harmful or dangerous situations due to lack of options.

“We hear from some renters that it takes them 7 or 8 months to find units in complexes that they label as ‘rundown,’” said Ben Williamson, Down Home’s Western Region Manager. “We recognize all complexes aren’t equal, but renters deserve to know living spaces are safe and basic essentials like plumbing, electric, and heat are working, in exchange for their hard-earned rent payments,” Williamson said.

Down Home members and community supporters are planning to ask Watauga’s Board of Commissioners to consider housing standards at the 16 May meeting. The group encourages anyone from the community to join in asking for safe and stable housing for everyone. The meeting begins at 5:30, at the Watauga County Administration Building, 814 W King Street in Boone.

For more information, contact: Alana Baird, 828-406-1517