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Ch. 5: Thriving, Livable Neighborhoods

Salisbury will be a community of safe and flourishing neighborhoods that offer quality, variety, and affordable housing choices for all.

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Forward 2040 Chapter 5: Thriving, Livable Neighborhoods

Thriving, livable neighborhoods are neighborhoods that offer attractive, safe, and affordable housing for all who reside in the community.  In addition to providing high-quality housing options, neighborhoods are places where residents should feel welcome to participate in civic life. As Salisbury continues to experience growth, access to public services and proximity to daily needs should be encouraged. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a framework for encouraging neighborhoods that are diverse and distinctive, affordable, rich in character, well-preserved, and well-maintained. 

Goal 5.1. Encourage housing that is available to all household types at a variety of price points

Like much of the United States, Salisbury is on the cusp of a significant shift in the population makeup. Compared to the early 2000s, the city as a whole is older and more diverse. Household sizes are shrinking, and those who start families do so later. Housing affordability at all income levels is an ongoing struggle, and increasing the overall housing supply to meet the demand will be required.

Policy 5.1.1.

Increase the overall supply of housing to accommodate growth and changing demand.

Policy 5.1.2.

Produce housing units that meet the changing needs of Salisbury residents in terms of unit sizes, housing types, price points, and locations.

Policy 5.1.3.

Expand housing choices for all occupants and household types including seniors, students, families, empty-nesters, young professionals, and multi-generational families.

Policy 5.1.4.

Facilitate development of mixed-density and mixed-income housing, and other creative housing options that reduce housing costs while providing adequate community amenities.

Policy 5.1.5.

Work with local and regional housing providers to increase the development capacity of both for profit and nonprofit developers to deliver housing that is affordable to the target populations.

Policy 5.1.6.

Support the preservation of existing housing through active monitoring of the supply by type, condition and tenure, encouraging the maintenance and rehabilitation of units in sub-standard condition and requiring rehabilitation or demolition of dangerous housing units.

Goal 5.2. Allow for a variety of housing types to accommodate diverse household needs

One-person households are now the most common type of household in the United States, according to the 2020 Census. As household structures change, Salisbury will need a full range of housing types from single-family and multifamily housing, to townhomes and apartments. Attention should also be given to meet the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities. 

Policy 5.2.1.

Support housing rehabilitation programs that assist homeowners with repair, modernization, and energy efficiency improvements of their home.

Policy 5.2.2.

Encourage the development of accessible housing for residents with disabilities, particularly near transit stops and activity centers.

Policy 5.2.3.

Use small scale multifamily dwellings, such as townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, or quadplexes, to transition to more intense commercial or mixed use areas from existing residential neighborhoods.

Policy 5.2.4.

Encourage neighborhoods with a mixture of housing types and price points.

Policy 5.2.5.

Develop zoning standards for compatible accessory dwelling units for single-family houses in new development and existing neighborhoods.
Housing Action 1:
Review and propose changes to the Land Development Ordinance related to accessory dwelling units. Regulations should address the size, scale, and location of the accessory unit, as well as impacts, such as parking, to the surrounding properties.

Missing Middle Housing

Missing middle housing is a term coined by Daniel Parolek to describe a range of multi-family or clustered housing types that are compatible in scale with single-family neighborhoods. It is intended to meet the demand for walkable neighborhoods, respond to changing demographics, and provide housing at different price points.

Goal 5.3. Promote the creation of affordable housing, while avoiding concentrations of poverty

Housing is generally considered “affordable” when it consumes less than 30% of a household’s budget according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), regardless of total income. With rising land, material, and labor costs driving up the prices of construction, housing affordability will continue to be an issue at all income levels in Salisbury particularly for those with low-income. While market based solutions to the overall housing supply could alleviate price-pressures from demand, leveraging that growth to create permanent affordable housing that is integrated throughout the community should be prioritized.

Policy 5.3.1.

Subsidized affordable housing should not be concentrated in particular neighborhoods or areas of the City and should be integrated throughout.
Housing Action 2:
Develop a Subsidized Housing Location Policy to ensure subsidized housing is not concentrated in any particular area.

Policy 5.3.2.

Continue to seek expansion of public-private and non-profit partnerships that provide affordable housing.

Policy 5.3.3.

Consider acquisition and assembly of vacant and substandard residential lots for new affordable, workforce, and mixed-income housing as part of the capital improvements program.
Housing Action 3:
Seek ways to market surplus public property for the creation of affordable housing.
Housing Action 4:
Explore a partnership to develop a Community Land Trust that ensures long term affordability in neighborhoods throughout the City.

Policy 5.3.4.

Locate publicly-supported affordable housing within auto-optional neighborhoods or in areas with transit access to employment opportunities and essential services.

Policy 5.3.5.

Support energy efficient standards for all new publicly-supported housing construction and rehabilitation.

Glossary of Common Housing Terminology

Affordable Housing

Housing that costs no more than 30% of a household’s income is considered to be “affordable” for that household. For owners, housing costs include principal, interest, property taxes, and hazard insurance. For renters, costs include rent and tenant-paid utilities (except telephone and cable).

Area Median Income (AMI) 

One-half of the incomes in the area are above this amount and one-half are below. Figures are published annually by HUD for every county and metropolitan area in the U.S.
  • Extremely Low Income - Adjusted income that is below 30% of the area median income (AMI) adjusted for household size and for the county or Metropolitan Statistical Area.
  • Very Low Income - Adjusted income below 50% of the area median income (AMI) adjusted for household size and for the county or Metropolitan Statistical Area.
  • Low Income - Adjusted income that is between 50 and 80% of the area median income (AMI) adjusted for household size and for the county or Metropolitan Statistical Area.
  • Moderate Income - Adjusted income that is between 80 and 120% of the area median income (AMI) adjusted for household size and for the county or Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG)

Created by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. CDBG provides eligible metropolitan cities and urban counties (called “entitlement communities”) with annual direct grants that they can use to revitalize neighborhoods, expand affordable housing and economic opportunities, and/or improve community facilities and services, principally to benefit low- and moderate-income persons.

Fair Housing 

Federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing, renting and lending based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability. Legislation first enacted in 1968 and expanded by amendments in 1974 and 1988.

Fair Market Rent (FMR) 

Rent guidelines for various size units (studio, 1BR, 2BR, etc.) based on market rents for the area. These guidelines are set by HUD primarily to determine payment standards for its affordable housing programs e.g., Housing Choice Vouchers). FMRs are published annually by HUD.

Housing Choice Vouchers 

Allow very low-income households to choose and lease privately-owned rental units. The main federal rental assistance program, vouchers are administered by local public housing agencies. Vouchers are provided to eligible households, and they find their own housing (it must meet program health and safety requirements). Housing voucher recipients must pay 30 percent of their monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. The PHA calculates the maximum amount of allowable assistance as the area moderate-priced unit standard minus 30 percent of the household’s income.

Inclusionary Zoning 

Ordinances that encourage (by providing incentives) or require developers to include a minimum percentage of low- and/or moderate-income housing within new market-rate developments. Typical incentives include density bonuses (allowing additional units to be built), expedited permitting, relaxed design standards (e.g., minimum lot sizes or setbacks), and fee waivers.

Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC)

A federal tax incentive that facilitates financing to develop low-income housing. The program provides dollar-for-dollar credit toward taxes owed by the housing owner. These tax credits can be sold, or used to back up bonds that are sold, to obtain financing to develop the housing. As with any other subsidy program, specific rules and eligibility requirements pertain to units funded with LIHTC.

Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH)

Refers to residential rental properties that are affordable, but are unsubsidized by any federal program. Their rents are relatively low compared to the regional housing market. 

Market Rate 

Area rent levels for units without any subsidy or assistance from a public program.


A mix of residents with various income levels (including low income) within one development.

Subsidized Housing 

There are two general types of housing subsidies: 1) development subsidies (supply side) to help construct or acquire housing, and 2) operating subsidies (demand side) that supplement the amount that residents can pay.

Goal 5.4. Revitalize and preserve historic homes and neighborhoods

Salisbury’s residential historic resources are a physical symbol of the City’s 250+ year history.  Collectively, homes in historic neighborhoods have character and scale that make Salisbury unique and authentic. While historic homes are a cultural asset, the cost of owning and maintaining historic homes can be a challenge. As rehabilitation and new construction in historic neighborhoods occurs, the City remain committed to working with residents and preservation partners to maintain safeguards that preserve homes and neighborhoods, while avoiding gentrification and displacing long time residents.

Policy 5.4.1.

Protect and conserve historic and unique neighborhoods with an abundance of character through the use of zoning, local historic overlay districts, reinvestment, and other tools.

Policy 5.4.2.

Maintain the character of the existing built environment when considering infill development in historic neighborhoods. 

Policy 5.4.3.

Existing homes should be restored, rather than demolished, whenever structurally and financially feasible.  

Policy 5.4.4.

Partner with the private and non-profit sectors to incentivize housing rehabilitation.
Housing Action 5:
Explore a Receivership ordinance and program that would promote reuse of vacant and abandoned existing structures that can be rehabilitated. Put in place programs to negate adverse effects of gentrification on existing residents and homeowners. 

Goal 5.5. Promote compatible and contextual infill housing development

As population continues to grow, available land for new homes and the commercial, business and industrial sites to support the community is becoming increasingly scarce. Infill development (building in existing neighborhoods) is a tool to respond to residential demand that both reduces the development pressure on surrounding rural lands, and utilizes existing infrastructure to reduce the cost of delivering municipal services. Respecting the character of the existing neighborhood is crucial to preserving and maintaining livable neighborhoods.

Policy 5.5.1.

Encourage infill development that is compatible with the character of the neighborhood. Consider massing, height, and other architectural or site elements of new construction in established neighborhoods.
Housing Action 6: 
Review infill standards in the Land Development Ordinance.

Policy 5.5.2.

Encourage the redevelopment of underutilized sites, including but not limited to vacant sites, surface parking lots and brownfield areas.

Policy 5.5.3.

Promote infill development that is designed with compatible elements of nearby structures and in a manner that enhances or improves the character of the neighborhood.

Infill Housing

“Infill” is a term to describe new houses constructed on vacant, underused lots that are interspersed among older, existing properties in established neighborhoods. The photo above is an infill house that blends with the existing neighborhood context in terms of height, massing, setbacks, site design and architectural features. 

Goal 5.6. Build complete and connected neighborhoods

Sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and other means of getting from one neighborhood to another should be expanded.  Neighborhoods that include recreational, retail, recreational facilities as well as housing ensure that each person has an opportunity to thrive in their community.

Policy 5.6.1.

Clear and safe pedestrian and bicycle networks within, through and between neighborhoods should be enhanced. Opportunities to connect neighborhoods to adjacent commercial centers and community facilities and services should be explored.

Policy 5.6.2.

Provide support for revitalization of existing small-scale commercial nodes near established neighborhoods to promote walking and bicycling, and to decrease unnecessary automobile trips.

Policy 5.6.3.

Connect new neighborhoods to other residential, shopping, and employment areas.

Policy 5.6.4.

Promote subdivision design that provides bike and pedestrian access to trails and transit routes.

Policy 5.6.5.

Ensure adequate open space in new developments to complement residential development.

Policy 5.6.6.

Carefully configure streets to allow for multiple outlets from neighborhoods, and for connections between neighborhoods, without encouraging through traffic.

Policy 5.6.7.

Incorporate traffic calming measures into the design of new or retrofitted local and neighborhood streets. Create safe, convenient, and well-marked means to cross streets for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Housing Action 7:
Develop a local streets plan that identifies and prioritizes opportunities for traffic calming, and completing gaps in sidewalk and bicycle networks.

Goal 5.7. Maintain and improve the quality, condition, and appearance of housing

A large percentage of Salisbury’s housing stock was built prior to 1940, and while this means many of the homes are built with “good bones”, maintaining an aging home is challenging and expensive. Homes that are abandoned, dilapidated, and deteriorating can affect the health, safety, and welfare of those living in that environment, as well as neighbors who have to endure undesirable conditions. Continuing to enforce City Codes and to proactively seek new funding sources for innovative housing programs should be a focus. 

Policy 5.7.1.

Target housing revitalization and stabilization efforts in neighborhoods at risk of becoming distressed. Efforts should be facilitated through grants, loans, capital improvements, public-private partnerships, and other actions. 
Housing Action 8: 
Develop a GIS based model to routinely assess neighborhood conditions. Factors could include average sale price, percentage of vacant or boarded properties, percentage of properties with code violations, and homeownership rates. 

Policy 5.7.2.

Continue to use federal CDBG/HOME and local funding to provide financial assistance for housing rehabilitation in at-risk or distressed neighborhoods when available.
Housing Action 9:
Work with the HOME consortium to develop a fund-sharing model that would allow the City to complete larger projects on a scheduled basis, as opposed to smaller projects every year. 

Policy 5.7.3.

Promote the use of the North Carolina historic tax credit for rehabilitation of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Policy 5.7.4.

Proactively enforce codes related to housing conditions and neighborhood appearance based on regular canvassing for violations. Support and work with property owners and tenants to address violations. 
Housing Action 10:
Explore the creation of a tool library where residents can borrow tools for maintenance and home improvement projects.

Goal 5.8. Maintain and build cared for neighborhoods

As new neighborhoods are built, and older neighborhoods age, it is important to develop and maintain infrastructure that will last. Neighborhood features like trees, fences, medians, benches, and gardens that are well-maintained can encourage further investment, civic participation, and pride.   Everyone plays a part in caring for neighborhoods – from the developers who build, to the City that repairs, to the residents who maintain.

Policy 5.8.1.

Empower residents to care for their own properties and neighborhood common spaces through education and training, events and matching grants.

Policy 5.8.2.

Create and support City-led and volunteer-organized programs that routinely reduce litter, clean storm drains, and encourage tree planting.

Policy 5.8.3.

Plant and maintain a tree canopy equitably across all neighborhoods in the City.

Policy 5.8.4.

Undertake maintenance, repair, and enhancements of streets and sidewalks in an equitable manner. Equally distribute physical maintenance throughout the city in a way that benefits all neighborhoods.
Housing Action 11:
Explore a matching grant program for neighborhood to apply for new amenities, such as gardens, art installations, and parks.

Policy 5.8.5.

Add greenways, sidealks, and multimodal infrastructure in emerging neighborhoods that currently lack amenities.

Goal 5.9. Foster a sense of neighborhood identity, community involvement, and social connectedness

Studies have suggested a cohesive neighborhood that encourages a sense of belonging can lead to improved overall health. New neighborhoods should be built and older neighborhoods should be maintained or retrofitted to encourage interaction and community gathering spaces.

Policy 5.9.1.

Cultivate a sense of community by encouraging neighborhood design features that enhance interaction, including sidewalks with road verges, multi-use paths, front porches, and pocket parks.

Policy 5.9.2.

Engage neighborhoods in place making projects to foster a sense of identity and neighborhood pride.

Policy 5.9.3.

Cultivate neighborhood interaction and cohesiveness through the creation of meeting places and community centers.

Policy 5.9.4.

Use public art to help create and foster community and neighborhood identity, and incorporate art as part of public projects, community facilities, and green spaces. 

Policy 5.9.5.

Act as a convener of various neighborhood groups to listen, share ideas, and work together on common issues.

Goal 5.10. Create pathways to homeownership, especially for historically underrepresented communities

The financial ability to own a home is often the result of generational wealth and experience passed on, and there are barriers to those who have been historically and systemically marginalized. While renting a home is becoming increasingly common, homeownership is a primary path for building wealth. Therefore, overcoming barriers is essential, especially for those that have been historically underrepresented as homeowners.

Policy 5.10.1.

Support organizations that provide financial counseling and home buyer education to build capacity among low- and moderate-income households and school-age kids.

Policy 5.10.2.

Support wealth-building housing models through local credit unions or financial institutions with a particular focus on empowering communities historically underrepresented as homeowners.

Policy 5.10.3.

Support services that promote post-purchase counseling and foreclosure prevention.

Policy 5.10.4.

Partner to develop a campaign for outreach and awareness of services.  

Policy 5.10.5.

Consider expansion of down payment assistance or loan forgiveness programs.

Goal 5.11. Take measures to remove housing discrimination and protect tenants’ rights in rental housing

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination on the basis of seven protected classes, including race, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, gender and age. Still, discrimination in housing can be widespread. Increased efforts to educate renters, home buyers, real estate agents, landlords, and lenders to identify discriminatory and illegal practices will always be needed.  The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination on the basis of seven protected classes, including race, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, gender and age. Still, discrimination in housing can be widespread. Increased efforts to educate renters, home buyers, real estate agents, landlords, and lenders to identify discriminatory and illegal practices will always be needed. 

Policy 5.11.1.

Collaborate with nonprofit partners and those in the HOME consortium to ensure compliance with federal Fair Housing Act to provide equal access to housing and prevent unfair lending practices.

Policy 5.11.2.

Adopt by reference the implementation chapter of the most recent Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing.

Policy 5.11.3.

Educate landlords, real estate associations, and lending institutions about Fair Housing and tenants’ rights.

Policy 5.11.4.

Encourage landlords to register for the Rental Property Remedial Action Program and to maintain their rental properties. The

Rental Property Remedial Action Program (RAP)

notifies property owners and managers when there is an unacceptable level of disorder or criminal activity occurring at their property. The program is voluntary to join and the City provides email notifications to keep property owners and managers aware of activity occurring on their property.

Goal 5.12. Support local organizations that provide services to those experiencing homelessness 

Stable and supportive places to live are crucial platforms for pursuing personal goals, such as education or employment, and improving overall quality of life. Seeking creative ways to support those who are and are at risk of experiencing homelessness is an important step toward ensuring all members of the community have an opportunity to re-establish themselves. Stable and supportive places to live are crucial platforms for pursuing personal goals, such as education or employment, and improving overall quality of life. Seeking creative ways to support those who are and are at risk of experiencing homelessness is an important step toward ensuring all members of the community have an opportunity to re-establish themselves.

Policy 5.12.1.

Support agencies and organizations that address the root causes of homelessness including re-entry, mental health, and poverty.

Policy 5.12.2.

Support efforts to provide workforce training, access to transportation, access to affordable child care, financial literacy counseling, and other strategies to help low-income residents reach self-sufficiency and secure, affordable housing.

Policy 5.12.3.

Promote the efforts of agencies and organizations to provide appropriate shelter, housing, and support services to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness

Policy 5.12.4.

Ensure zoning regulations allow for innovative solutions for permanent supportive housing.

Policy 5.12.5.

Routinely promote resources that are available and can help people in jeopardy of homelessness.

Policy 5.12.6.

Allow for creative affordable housing options, such as tiny home villages and accessory dwelling units.

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