Talk to business owners, young people wishing to work here for the summer and those who have year-round jobs and there is a consensus: affordable housing here is sorely lacking.
This is not a new problem, but based on the seasonal economy and small size of the village, this issue is one of Ocracoke’s greatest challenges with no easy solutions.
Of course, other towns have a greater variety of housing options. Cities often have houses with basement efficiencies that permit someone to live and pay a rent within the means of their income. But Ocracoke has no basements and very few options for low-cost housing for either seasonal or year-round.
Realizing this problem, several island businesses have their own housing available for seasonal workers whom they hire. But this doesn’t help all young or older workers who want to live on the island inexpensively, be it seasonally or long-term.
From 1977 until the late 1990s, island visionary Vickie Cobb rented rooms in her Oyster Creek home to half a dozen college women for the summer. Known affectionately as “The Cobb Boarding House,” the young women had to fend for themselves, but the idea worked at a time when taxes were considerably lower and everything was less expensive, says Vicki’s daughter Candice Cobb.
Year-round workers, including teachers, may find places to rent from September to April, but often must vacate their abodes in deference to weekly summer rentals, from which landlords can make more money for several months than they can from year-round renters.
Such scrambles have forced many productive members of the community to leave for more stabilized housing and lifestyle.
Could some buildings on the island be converted to efficiency apartments for these workers? What would be a reasonable monthly rent payment that could be acceptable for both the landlords and the renters? We encourage a discussion of this pressing issue.
There are plenty of knowledgeable people on the island who could come up with creative ideas that could help solve this vexing issue.