by William Holloman
The critical need for housing in Mount Olive is an issue Mayor Joe Scott has been working on for a year. Just last week, one of two potential builders decided no, due to land acquisition issues. However, the second potential builder continues to move forward and is actively looking at property to purchase.
Mayor Scott said he is working toward development of a 200-bed complex somewhere in the north part of town. He said they will be aimed for people with medium and higher income.
“We have a shortage of suitable housing here. With the University growing and additional employees at Southern Bank, and others, the need continues to grow,” said Mayor Scott.
He said rental needs here are lacking in quantity, and in some cases are sub-standard and do not attract the right tenants. He said he is a strong believer if units are built, the people will come here, and that there is a serious need for additional Section 8, federally-subsidized housing.
“We need to look at this situation before it becomes a crisis,” he said. “We need to be proactive in attacking the problem of housing here.”
Town Manager Charles Brown said, “I am glad to see the Mayor is addressing this issue. I don’t know how many people are aware that the population of Mount Olive increases by 30 percent during the work day. That means around 1500 people come to Mount Olive daily to work, but do not live here.”
He said a lot of people who work at the University, Southern Bank, and the Pickle Company have to live elsewhere, because there is no housing for them here. If those people lived here, there would be more demand for a variety of businesses and it would mean an increase in the town’s tax base.
He said while efforts to bring housing to Mount Olive have not been approved in the past, he feels that may change. “I think we have a different board today and I think we will see a different approach to it than what we have had in the past,” he explained. “I cannot put words in their mouth and I cannot make decisions for them, but I think our board today recognizes it as an issue.
Decisions in the past have put our current board in a hole, and I think they clearly understand it is their responsibility to start climbing out of it,” he concluded.