Raleigh is one of the fastest growing cities in America, and it’s no secret why – we are blessed with a great location, climate and quality of life. We are consistently ranked as one of the top cities to live, start a business and raise a family. With almost 2,000 people moving here every month, we must plan for our future now. Where do we want to be in 10 years and how are we going to get there?
Mary-Ann believes in the incredible people that call Raleigh home. She knows that when we come together, we can build a great city – a bold and vibrant city that is affordable, accessible and inclusive. As Mayor, Mary-Ann is committed to creating a Raleigh for everyone, not just a few – supporting our longtime residents and welcoming our newest neighbors.
Mary-Ann believes housing should be a right, not a privilege. Raleigh’s housing affordability challenges didn’t happen overnight, but Mary-Ann and her city council colleagues are working to develop and implement both short- and long-term solutions.
Decades of prohibitive and discriminatory zoning laws have led to a shortage of housing and artificially high prices. As Mayor, Mary-Ann has taken decisive steps to make housing more affordable and accessible for homeowners and renters alike. But there is still much more work to do. Her plan for housing affordability is focused on these key areas:
Ending Exclusionary Zoning and Expanding Housing Choices
In the past two years, the city of Raleigh has taken major steps to allow for an increase in the supply of housing and make that housing more widely available for all.
- In 2021, Raleigh passed progressive zoning reform that allows “missing middle” housing, including duplexes, townhomes, and other types of housing to be built throughout the city. Prior to this, you could only build townhomes in 20 percent of the city, eliminating the possibility of home ownership for many.
- Mary-Ann and the city council adopted policies to allow for the construction of accessory dwelling units (also known as granny flats) throughout the city as well as cottage courts and tiny homes.
Building New Affordable and Supportive Housing
- In 2020, 72% of Raleigh voters approved a historic $80 million housing bond proposed by the city council that will allow for the construction of thousands of new affordable housing units.
- Using funding from the housing bond and other sources, including public-private partnerships, Raleigh is purchasing land along transit corridors to use for new affordable housing units
- Raleigh is also partnering with land trusts to provide long-term affordable housing, such as the Lane-Idlewild project that will be developed by the Raleigh Area Land Trust.
- With the help of funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the City of Raleigh purchased a hotel to serve as supportive housing and an emergency shelter for those in need.
Protecting Raleigh’s Longtime Residents
- Mary-Ann knows that Raleigh’s growth can’t come at the expense of our longtime residents, who have made our city the great place that it is. She is committed to working to provide relief to Raleigh’s most vulnerable residents. This includes expanding existing programs like the Homestead Exemption for seniors and disabled residents, as well as exploring new programs to assist longtime, low-income homeowners.
- Funding from the 2020 housing bond will go toward helping seniors and disabled residents stay in their homes by assisting with home rehabilitation, and support a down payment assistance program for qualified residents.
Transportation and Mobility
Transportation and housing affordability go hand-in-hand – an affordable house is not truly affordable if the transportation costs to get to work, shop for groceries and get around town are too high. Mary-Ann is a strong supporter of expanding transportation and mobility options to relieve congestion and make our city accessible to all. During her tenure on the city council, she served on GoTriangle Board of Trustees for nine years and on the Wake County Transit Plan Advisory Board, helping to develop and then advocating for the plan, which was approved by voters in 2016.
- Mary-Ann is a strong advocate for commuter rail, connecting Raleigh to Johnston County and Durham. In fact, it’s her top transit priority. Commuter rail will improve regional connectivity and quality of life, provide new job opportunities for residents and reduce climate change.
- Under Mary-Ann’s leadership, Raleigh has secured $39 million in funding for Raleigh’s first high-capacity, efficient Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line along New Bern Avenue, providing quality services from Southeast Raleigh to Downtown. This was one of the key goals of the Wake County Transit Plan. She supports expanding BRT throughout the city, including to North and Western Raleigh.
- Since 2020, Mary-Ann and the city council have used federal funding to make the GoRaleigh bus system fare-free, allowing more people to access public transportation. She supports making this a permanent change and is committed to working with the council and community partners to provide funding, while expanding and making our bus system more efficient.
- The city council has also worked to prioritize pedestrian safety and bicycle lane improvements. Raleigh is also planning a “Vision Zero” action plan to make our streets safer for everyone.
Building a World Class Dix Park and Expanding Parks and Greenways Throughout the City
Raleigh’s system of more than 200 parks is a huge part of what makes our city so special. Mary-Ann and the City Council are planning continued investments with a historic Parks Bond scheduled for voter approval in November 2022.
As part of this effort, Mary-Ann is advocating for $41 million in funding to help support the construction of the Children’s Plaza & Play area at Dix Park, which will attract thousands of visitors and families and help advance the long-term Dix Park Master Plan. She is also advocating for funding Phase 2 of the Chavis Park revitalization, which includes an aquatics center. The bond will also include funding for other parks programs throughout the City with an eye toward equity and accessibility.
In 2021, the City Council also approved a “Penny for Parks” program, providing $38 million over five years to modernize parks, and help maintain greenways and community centers.
Supporting Small Businesses
Small businesses are Raleigh’s cultural soul. As a city council member, Mary-Ann co-founded the Innovate Raleigh initiative, which serves as a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation in our region. She has also worked to recruit new businesses to Raleigh, including the expansion of Bandwidth’s new campus headquarters on Edwards Mill Road and the location of Citrix to the Warehouse District.
Raleigh’s small business community has faced unprecedented challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mary-Ann has worked with the city council to make sure businesses have the support they need.
- In 2020, Mary-Ann worked with the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce to create a small business grant program, with city and private-sector funding. The City contributed $1 million, with Mary-Ann and other Chamber volunteers raising another $600,000. The program awarded up to $10,000 grants to small businesses throughout the city.
- She supported Raleigh’s Building Up-Fit grant program, which has so far awarded $630,000 to assist businesses with improvements and renovations. 57% of the grants have been awarded to minority-owned businesses.
- Mary-Ann supports innovative solutions to help small businesses thrive. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Raleigh moved to allow more outdoor dining and created temporary curbside pickup zones for restaurants. Both have proved to be popular, and the city is looking to make versions of these policies permanent – both to support small businesses and improve our public realm.
Equity and Inclusion
Under Mary-Ann’s leadership, Raleigh established the first ever Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to help support social justice and civil rights efforts, as well as conduct citywide equity training.
The city and Shaw University are working together on “Courageous Community Conversations,” which will result in a 10-point plan to address social and racial justice issues in Raleigh. This important partnership was created with funds Mary-Ann requested from the City Council contingency fund.
There is still more to do to create a Raleigh where everyone is welcome. In 2021, Raleigh joined Wake County in adopting an expanded non-discrimination ordinance to include members of the LGBTQ+ community. Mary-Ann also led the effort to create the City’s new Commission on Hispanic & Immigrant Affairs, lifting the voices of these underrepresented communities.
Mary-Ann believes that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, not just the loudest voices. In 2020, she fulfilled a campaign promise by moving Raleigh beyond its antiquated and broken CAC system, which too often spotlighted a small number of people at the expense of the rest of the city. Under the new system, Raleigh created the Office of Community Engagement with full-time staff members to create inclusive opportunities for community engagement across the city. This new effort also ensures that both property owners and renters are included in meeting notices.
Mary-Ann and the city council also eliminated a previous requirement for speakers at city council meetings to sign up two weeks in advance.
Sustainability and Protecting the Environment
Mary-Ann believes that every level of government has a role to play in mitigating climate change and protecting our environment. She has joined President Biden’s commitment to protect 30 percent of America’s land and waters by 2030, which scientists indicate is necessary to combat climate change and environmental inequities.
The City of Raleigh has developed a Community Climate Action Plan that aims to reduce city-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. The plan includes transitioning to a fleet of alternative fuel and electric buses, building more energy efficient buildings, and supporting renewable energy and solar systems throughout the city.