Town of Chapel Hill Special Topics Session: Student Housing


Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Council Chamber, Chapel Hill Town Hall
The Town of Chapel Hill Special Topics sessions return to the community with a presentation on student housing at noon Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the Council Chamber of Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
The Special Topics series began during the Chapel Hill 2020 comprehensive planning process as a way to share information with interested residents who want to know more about issues, trends and studies that affect the future. For past topics, see
Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and co-presenters Christopher Payne, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, and Larry Hicks, director of housing and residential education, will provide an overview of the current on-campus student housing options provided by the University and plans for future renovation and construction.
They will share information about campus housing and recent student surveys for the factors that influence where students live as well as the resources available to students who move off campus. They will also discuss the University’s business model for campus housing including factors such as market rates, safety and security and retention.

The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.
Crisp is a 1989 graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and a 1992 graduate of the UNC School of Law. He began his career at UNC after his graduation in 1992 working as the school’s first full-time assistant dean for student affairs and the first associate dean for student services. He moved to Student Affairs as the assistant vice chancellor in 2005.

Payne has served in a variety of higher education positions including assistant director of residence life at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, director of operations for the department of residence at the University of Denver and director of housing and residential education at UNC.

Hicks previously served as associate director of administrative services in the department of housing and residential education.

The public event will be aired live on Chapel Hill Government TV-18 and streamed on the Town of Chapel Hill website at For more information about the special topic series, contact Catherine Lazorko at or 919-969-5055. For more information about the presenters, contact Susan Hudson at or 919-962-8415.


It's unfortunate that the Town continues to schedule these sorts of sessions mid-day and mid-week so that most people simply cannot attend. I also think it's particularly bad that the Town scheduled this specific event before most students even return to Chapel Hill, given the topic directly deals directly with student involvement in the Town.

This is simply bizarre. Travis, perhaps you and others could contact Catherine Lazorko to request that the town consider rescheduling this session to a reasonable date and time.

I agree that these special topics should be held when folks are most likely to attend. At least perhaps we could alternate between a noon and an evening session. I replied to the city's announcement tweet suggesting this session's time be altered and a town council member made the same request. On a related note, it would be cool if @chapelhillgov replied to tweets as well as sending them.

Perhaps they thought this would be a great time for students because before classes start students could come during the day -- wait - residence halls do not even open til the 18th and classes don't start 'til the 21st so most students either have not gotten here or are still on break or still working summer jobs -- and the real issue is letting students even know about an issue that vitally affects them long term -- an evening after classes start would be far better -- and actually classes are already in next week in some programs (my older son's GF starts the UNC MD/PhD program this year and her med school classes start next Monday)

I couldn't agree more, Travis. The additional insult of scheduling this particular topic in early August when students are out of Town makes it clear that these events are not designed for community engagement, or really any meaningful input. The "special topics" seem more like a seminar series organized by and for Town Staff. As such, they may be quite useful. But they're also a missed opportunity to have some enlightened discussion about important issues facing our community. The Town gets better and better at communicating at us, but I don't see much evidence that anyone (with the exception of Lee Storrow, and sometimes other electeds) wants very much to listen.

I coulnd't agree more with you, Ruby. Through the entire process I felt that I got a lot of good information about the town and about planning issues generally, but I felt like there weren't many opportunities for my voice to be heard in a meaningful or specific way.

We had the same issue pop up during our school board meeting on Thursday (I'm sorry our meeting wasn't on TV - summer meetings are often held in Lincoln Center and the video feed there won't work until next month).
I suggested in that meeting that we're doing a better job of communicating at people than we are of even giving the appearance of listening - but judging from the looks on my colleagues' faces, they weren't expecting that assessment.  My specific example was the Dual Language changes this spring.  I have no problem with the decision reached there, and I tried to reach out a great deal to listen.  But in particular the initial process used generated an awful lot of distrust that wasn't necessary or useful.  And the relevance to today is that I see some of that same process in our redistricting efforts. I hate to see us and the administration miss these opportunities for an engaged citizenry.In no way do I think this is attributable to bad intentions (regardless of what the ugly emails accuse us of), but our "opinion-gifted" community demands more openness than the average one. PS - relevant quote via Val Foushee at the end of this column by Ellie Kinnaird  (complete coincidence that they are talking about this at same time)

The town records the special topic presentations so people who miss them can get the materials and hear the presentation (see link below). I know watching on-line is not the same as attending in person, mainly because  you can not ask questions when you are watching it online. I have a feeling this will not be the only conversation we have about off-campus student housing. That being said, I have shared with town staff that the timing of this event was frustrating to many people. We are going to continue to try to find ways to accommodate different schedules, and are having two different meetings at two different times for the information session for South MLK/Estes (I'll be attending both to hear what folks are thinking about that small area plan.) A community member suggested to our staff at a noon presentation that we try out early morning meetings, so we'll see how it works on August 29th.

Students are a valuable part of this community.  Their dollars are necessary to the economic health of this town. Their volunteer ethic and the hours they spend contributing to the community makes the difference between success and failure for many programs that this town values.  Their energy and creativity make this a place I like living.  

That said, I also recognize that many students are not well equipped to live on their own--it's their first shot at freedom and some of them don't handle it very well.  When that kind of behavior spills into a neighborhood there can be a lot of hostility. 

 Here are some suggestions I have: (some of these may already exist)  

Can the university have a seminar series  about living off campus?  This could include rights and responsibilities related to renting and good neighbor policies.  It could help students avoid getting ripped off by unscrupulous landlords as well as helping them understand the responsibiltiies of renting in a neighborhood.

STRICT and I mean strict enforcement of existing noise laws and other neighborhood covenants about trash, no.  of vehicles,no. of residents in a home, and  general appearance of the home.

Property Managers need to be more accountable to check up on properties in their portfolio and communicate with tenants about town policies, condition of properties, and to warn tenants if they are violating ordinances and such--and they also need to let the owners of the properties know if things are going on in their homes that are not acceptable. 

Could UNC have a contact person/dept that could help when disputes arise?   Student Legal Aid helped me when I had a problem with a local business.  Could there be something like that?  

 The University has an honor code that has a clause under "Conduct affecting Property" that seems to cover more than just  misuse of University there some role for the honor code to play in seriously aggregious offenses off campus?  

 Just some thoughts.  

I thought the presentation today was well done and provided some useful information, most of which I was probably unaware of.  I'll share what I can remember without notes and perhaps others can either correct my recollections or add to them.(1) UNC campus housing receives no funding from the state.  It is a stand-alone enterprise that covers its operating costs through the "rents" it collects. It prices its student campus housing at a rate that tries to be competitive with the private sector but it still needs to obtain enough to cover its costs. (2) In addition to 1st year students being required to live on campus, 75% of 2nd year students also live on campus.(3) Something like 55% of all students live on campus, a figure that is amongst the highest of the major public universities.(4) There are currently no students on waiting lists for campus housing - they are meeting the current demand.(5) They perceive parking to be one of the major issues leading to students looking to live off-campus.  Others include enhanced living spaces (own bedrooms, common areas) and the desire to live more freely as a young adult.(6) The University has not had much interaction with private developers building student housing - these developers are pretty much competitors for the University's own customers.(7) University housing is currently carrying about $250 million in debt with about $40 million/yr required to cover that debt.(8) A double in campus housing averages about $3800/9 months. Anyhow, that's all the facts I can think of right now.  Hopefully I got most right.  I found it to be very informative and thought the presenters were very forthright in their answers to questions from the audience. 

George, You took really good notes and thanks for posting the
information.  I checked in with Larry Hicks to confirm the data.  A few
adjustments:(3) 60% of undergrads live on campus and Greek housing.  This does not include the 400 family apartments on Mason Farm/Baity Hill.  I'll add that this is significantly higher than our public reseach peers. (7) The total budget is around $55 million with $17-18M going towards debt.(8) The housing rate is closer to $5600.  You can see more at The town has posted the video of the meeting at Convissor

Just some thoughts on meeting times per the earlier comments on this thread. I've been involved with too many community/neighborhood meetings to count over the past 10+ years.  However, there is one trend we have noted re. University meetings and that is that the earlier the meeting, the greater the turn-out.  I know this is counter-intuitive but a few years ago when I first noticed it, I actually pulled out our sign-up sheets and my meeting notes to confirm, and found it to be true.  When we had the many-meeting series on Carolina North (prior to the BOT/CHTC meeting and I believe prior to the LAC) at the SOG, we held them at various times of day.  I know we tried 3:00, 5:30, 7:00 and maybe a late morning or early afternoon.  Consistently, the earlier meetings drew the largest crowds.  I checked the sign-up sheets to see if the earlier meetings were attracting UNC-affiliated people.  They were, but no more so at the earlier meetings than at the later. As best I could tell, the attendees were community people who must have had work flexibility. More recently, we held two sessions for a neighborhood meeting, one at 5:30 and one at 7 p.m.  15 people attended the 5:30 session and 1 person the 7:00.  Meeting times are always tricky.  Our default has become the 5:30 meeting which seems to be a good compromise.  Most people seem to be able to arrive by then or a few minutes after and have expressed that it's easier to come straight from work (or day care) than to go home, get settled and then go out again.  Of course, we've have requests for alternate times and when i'ts clear that works best for a particular group, we go with that.   I've also had people (often retired, but not always) tell me that they prefer to go out during daylight hours.  In some cases, it is so that they can walk to the meetings if they are on campus or Giles Horney, in other it is that they are more comfortable driving during daylight.Linda 


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