In 2011, the Lower Cape Fear Sustainable Communities Consortium (FOCUS) formed to support better cooperation among the region’s local governments. The Regional Framework for Our Future is the culmination of nearly three years of work by the consortium’s member organizations to coordinate their planning and create a regional plan for sustainable development, funded by a grant from the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
There are many opportunities to address our stability. We need to make the right choices as the country as a whole recovers from a tough economic time. Our region’s business has been bolstered over the years because of the investment of international companies like PPD and GE, and the increased presence of the film industry in our region. We are also home to a successful University and Community Colleges. Our cities are recognized as being some of the best for small business development. We need to nurture those who hang a shingle in our region, and showcase their accolades to attract more business. We will invest in programs to support our agriculture and fishing industries also protect our environment in the process. And ensuring consistent tourism is a must. Together we can make great strides to use the opportunity of an economic upturn to our full advantage.
We must raise awareness and appreciation of our surroundings in order to sustain our unique breadth of landscape, from wetlands to farmlands and the cities in between.Our region is unique. Freshwater rivers and lakes, the Atlantic, and brackish in between serve so many purposes: recreation and tourism. Fishing. Transportation. We benefit from both the function and the beauty of our coastal Carolinian environment. Beyond commerce, our environment protects the nature of our landscape—it aids in water purification, flood control and shoreline stability.
The threat of sea rise and erosion changes our landscape, even from one season to the next. Our wetlands are most vulnerable to this type of erosion. FOCUS will champion programs that set standards for and assist businesses that plan to invest in our community, ensuring the economic opportunity pays no threat to our wildlife and air quality. And in growing our housing market we must guide the direction of sprawl to best serve long-term preservation of the land, sea and air we hold dear. Not only do we live off our land in terms of crops, livestock and fishing, but the quality of life we enjoy as a result of its diversity. To sustain it we need to muster enthusiasm as a people, using our influence to participate in its perseverance.
The health and well-being of our residents is key to a vibrant and sustainable future. FOCUS strives to create and support community health networks, educational programs and fitness initiatives. By organizing resources and engaging our communities, together we can increase awareness and participation in these important programs that make a difference, even in times of limited resources.
Our region is encumbered with issues common with our country as well as some unique to our environment. We can refine and extend existing programs to ensure healthy production, processing and distribution of our food to people of all income levels and environments, aiding consumption of locally sourced food. We can evolve and expand health initiatives in our schools and local community to reduce the prevalence of diabetes and childhood obesity. By shining a spotlight on the issue of air quality we help reduce asthma. With exercise outreach programs providing education and access, we can make our city healthier on the whole while ensuring a sustainable workforce. And studies show healthy people are happier and more active in their community.
Whatever your income range, Southeastern North Carolina is known for a high quality of life. And maintaining it requires an increased effort on all housing fronts. While this includes a variety of housing options for low income earners, students, the elderly, seasonal visitors and families, we also need to ensure programs and resources are available for current homeowners, and buyers and sellers at all income levels, from rural to urban to suburban.
With its all hands on deck community approach, FOCUS will address the trials, pitfalls and opportunities of housing programs as they affect people on the whole. Promoting the programs that are out there is the first hurdle. FOCUS will see to it that affordable housing options are developed in convenient locations near commerce and adequate transportation. We will monitor and promote financial programs that serve and save current homeowners and multi-homeowners in crisis. The end goal? To keep our people in their homes, and to maintain each citizen the opportunity to provide a roof over their head.
As a HUD grantee, the Consortium is required to “affirmatively further fair housing.” In order to demonstrate that the community is “affirmatively furthering fair housing,” each sustainable community grantee must conduct a Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (RAI) which identifies any impediments to fair housing choice and what steps the community will take to affirmatively further fair housing. HUD advises Lower Cape Fear Region, North Carolina Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice 5 communities that the Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing should also address “Visitability,” the Section 504 Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Fair Housing Act.
HUD defines “fair housing choice” as: “The ability of persons, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or handicap, of similar income levels to have available to them the same housing choices.” The Lower Cape Fear Sustainable Communities Consortium has not previously prepared an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice. The only federal entitlement jurisdiction in the consortium area is the City of Wilmington, NC. In order to perform an analysis of impediments to fair housing choice in the Cape Fear area, the demographic, housing, economic, and social characteristics of the area were evaluated as a basis for determining and identifying any existing impediments to fair housing choice. FOCUS has put together a Regional Analysis of Impediments for the region. If you wish to view the final document please click here.
Community development allows each of us to weave our heritage and culture into the fabric of our region. And with such a diverse population, that becomes a colorful and complex piece of art that we need to both cherish and uphold. Our southern heritage is expressed through community gatherings, artistic creations, agricultural, educational and military institutions. By maintaining both the necessary opportunities and the extracurricular activities we will maintain the greatest resource we possess—our people.
In taking a piece from each of the other FOCUS elements, we need to recognize opportunities for growth of our population and personal growth alike. We can foster job creation though our tourism programs and by new companies who invest in our urban and rural areas to put roots down. We can ensure community centers and parks are available for get-togethers and family excursions. And we can make it easy for events to be produced on our streets so you can enjoy your community and your personal relationships.
Whether by bicycle, car, bus or boat, transportation is vital to the economy and way of life in Southeastern North Carolina. Collaborating efforts to protect and expand means of transportation—from buses and rails to paths and pavement—is essential to maintaining a healthy flow of our people and visitors throughout our region.
FOCUS will look to improve efforts that serve all people, whether you rely on the bus or rail, drive the highways each day, or fly weekly for work. We’ll aim to divide resources to equally address our thoroughfares from our agricultural areas to bike paths. We’ll look at data and analyze our regional needs for even safer roads. We’ll discuss traffic patterns keeping up with tourist patterns. And we will share insights of transportation alternatives to make sure each citizen in our community has the proximity and the means of transportation to work, live and socialize.