Growth & Development

How Unaffordable? A Look at the Data

Last week, Chapel Hill’s economic development officer, Dwight Bassett, presented some data on Chapel Hill’s housing market to a reasonably-sized crowd at Town Hall. Bassett’s presentation followed a brief talk from Robert Hickey of the National Housing Conference about what’s happening in housing trends around the country.

Like many of the other audience members, it was Bassett’s data that struck me the most. (During the Q&A following the presentations, all but one question was directed at Bassett rather than Hickey). The one number that really stood out: 3117%. That is, since 1990, the number of houses in Chapel Hill valued at over $500,000 has increased by 3117%.

Compare this to more affordable price ranges: For houses valued between $100,000-$149,000, the number of houses has increased by only 32%. For houses valued between $150,000-$199,999, there has only been a 107% increase in the number of houses.

Let's Do Parking Right: A Look at the Evidence

Parking, like traffic, is a recurring theme in local conversation about growth and development. We often hear from some community members that there is nowhere to park in downtown Chapel Hill/Carrboro, that a lack of parking is hurting local businesses, and that the parking minimums required for the Ephesus-Fordham renewal district are insufficient.

But the facts simply don’t support these claims. The reality is that providing more parking – especially surface parking – is fundamentally incompatible with urban land uses.*

Numerous urban planning scholars have researched parking, and their research has consistently confirmed that more parking is not desirable on any metric – unless, that is, you want more people to drive and create more traffic.

The Truth About Traffic

Whenever there’s a new development proposal pending before a local governing board, the center of the conversation always seems to gravitate toward traffic. Given this tendency, I think it’s important we understand historic traffic changes in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation maintains historic traffic counts for urban areas around the state, including Chapel Hill. These traffic counts date back to 1997, with the most recent data being from 2013. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the average annual daily traffic in some major areas around town:

 

Area

1997

2004

2013

Change, 2013 vs. 1997

W Franklin St (just west of Columbia St)

17,400

18,000

12,000

Democracy and the Quality of Urban Life

Speaking to a sizeable crowd at Duke last Thursday night, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, shared his vision for and thoughts on “Democracy and the Quality of Urban Life.”

As mayor from 1998-2000, Peñalosa radically transformed the physical form of Bogotá. He worked to incorporate the city’s remote, illegally-constructed slums into the city by building new public spaces, parks, and pedestrian and bicycle connections. He implemented aggressive policies to limit car use by eliminating parking and creating dedicated bus lanes to improve public transit. He spoke at length during his talk about how the work he carried out as mayor was designed to make Bogotá a more inclusive, equal, and democratic city.

Increased Density is the Right Choice

This column originally appeared in the Chapel Hill News on Sunday, January 25.

By Travis Crayton & Molly De Marco

In 2014, “density” might well have been the word of the year in local government in Orange County.

Much of the debate about development in our communities boils down to preferences and emotions about the scale and density of proposed projects. (How tall? How many new units per acre?)

In 2015, the density debate is likely to rage on. But what is it about greater density that evokes such strong opinions?

Change in any facet of life is hard. When it comes to change in our neighborhoods, this is especially true. We become accustomed to a particular way of life and patterns of behavior, and we find comfort in these routines. But sometimes change is necessary. As a community professing to hold progressive values, such as environmental sustainability, socioeconomic diversity, and livability, we sometimes should embrace change to uphold and live out these values.

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