Addressing affordable housing so that all people can afford to live in our community is an extremely important issue to many in our community. It has been given as a reason to develop and redevelop our towns and as a reason not to. Many organizations including the Community Home Trust, EmPOWERment Inc., Habitat for Humanity, the InterFaith Council, CASA, Orange County Justice United, and The Marion Cheek Jackson Center have been working with the towns and county to provide and/or advocate for housing at prices attainable across all spectrums of income.
In this season of municipal budget discussions, a rundown of what our towns and elected boards are working on around affordable housing seems appropriate. I asked members of each elected board what their board is focused on this year. Here is a summary.
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen appointed 3 alderpersons to an affordable housing task force to work with staff, affordable housing organizations and developers, and the chairs of the Planning Board and the Transportation Advisory Board to make recommendations on an affordable housing strategy for Carrboro. The recommendations will cover both affordable rentals and homeownership. A public hearing on the proposed goals and strategies will be held on June 17. Also, the Board has included in its 2014-2015 proposed budget funding for a new position, an assistant to the manager. The new assistant to the manager would work on affordable housing and community outreach.
The Chapel Hill Town Council just passed its 2014-2015 budget. In it, the Council allocated roughly the equivalent of one cent on the tax rate to affordable housing. This allocation will be funded through a number of avenues including $188,750 that was allocated in the manager's original budget, an estimated $355,000 in development fees from the first four Ephesus-Fordham projects to be developed, and another $145,000 from redirecting operating funds that can be considered as an ongoing expenditure in future years. This is in addition to the funds the Town already spends on housing. In addition, as part of its advisory board restructuring, the Council has created the Housing Advisory Board, which they are in the process of seating.
The Hillsborough Town Board is in discussions on an affordable housing plan that will identify the biggest affordable housing needs (locations and populations) and provide guidance to developers. Already, the Town supports the HOME Consortium, the Community Home Trust, and the Partnership to End Homelessness. The Town of Hillsborough will soon receive $160,000 in payment-in-lieu from the new Forrest Ridge development that is designated for affordable housing. The board has not yet decided how best to allocate those funds. Further, the new Waterstone Development included a parcel of land for 24 affordable units that has been deeded to the Community Home Trust for development. The cost of developing those units will require additional funding sources however.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners is providing in their proposed 2015 budget funding for human services including the Impact Fee Reimbursement ($175,000), Habitat for Humanity ($20,000), Housing for New Hope ($22,000), EmPOWERment, Inc. ($15,000), Urgent Repair Program ($129,185) and the Community Home Trust ($149,000). The commissioners also funds a Social Justice Fund and at the end of the budget discussion will be deciding the amount of money to allocate for the Fund. In addition to this, the commissioners are in discussions about relaxing rules on mobile home neighborhoods and fast tracking affordable housing. The commissioners are also working to set up a countywide committee to address affordable housing so that the towns and the county are not examining information and making decisions in a silo. The commissioners have also started to discuss issuing a bond to provide funding for affordable housing along with school repairs and the jail. To plan for such a bond, an ad hoc task force may be set up with representation from each municipality.