What Are We Doing About Affordable Housing?

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.

Chapel Hill

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.

Orange County

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.


Thanks, Molly, for compiling this overview.A couple of quick thoughts. 1) We need to shift gears and start thinking about how "tiny houses" could help provide more affordable housing for more people for less money.2) Any over-arching discussion of affordable housing should include the need for a living wage for all. It may seem silly to say, but the reason most housing is unaffordable is because lots of people can't afford them.  

The Town of Carrboro's draft "Affordable Housing Goals and Strategies" document is now available at http://www.townofcarrboro.org/pzi/PDFs/AffordableGoalsStrategiesPublicHearingFinalDraft.pdf.The Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing on the goals and strategies next Tuesday, June 17, at 7:30 pm at Town Hall. Complete agenda materials for the meeting will be available at http://carrboro.legistar.com later today. 

Damon, am I doing my math right? It seems that what the board is considering is that one needs an income of $18/HR ($36,000/year) to afford even rental housing in the area. (If you budget your rent for 1/3 or your income that would mean an apartment for $990/month) That seems to leave out a large and important population of the service economy, not to mention the elderly/disabled.

In my mind we should be forcing developers to build studios and small one bedrooms that would be affordable at the current minimum wage.



I think your math is right. However, the 60% AMI of $36,000 (which I think is now up to about $39,000) refers to household income, not individual income. Also, the AMI is an upper limit. The goal you're referring to is to increase the number of affordable units to people who are below that limit. As you point out, many people are below that limit.

You seem to be assuming that anyone who makes less than $36,000 for either an individual or a household is single or in a couple and can easily live in a studio or one bedroom apartment. Many of the service workers at UNC have families and could not live in such a small space.Another assumption in this dialog is that we have to subsidize housing in order to make it affordable. I wonder how many working adults want to live in subsidized housing in a high-cost community when they can live in Alamance, Person or one of the other neighboring counties and pay for their own living expenses.  

I was in Asheville this past weekend, and noticed that this project was being built near downtown: http://www.mtnhousing.org/services/rental/developments/EagleMarket.phpThis seems like a creative solution to what has been a longstanding contentious issue, and I wonder if something similar could be accomplished in Chapel Hill/Carrboro.   

Interesting and lively discussion on Carrboro's draft Affordable Housing Planat last night's BOA meeting. The alderman heard from representatives from CASA, the Partnership to End Homelessness, Empowerment, Justice United, and Community Home Trust as well as a few citizens. One gentleman proposed an idea of repurposing shipping crates into modular homes; another speaker told the group that even though she is working two jobs, she will be moving to Durham because she cannot afford the rents in Carrboro. A great deal of last night's discussion revolved around rents over ownership as Mayor Lavelle noted in her comments.I'm happy to say that the aldermen accepted recommendations to add to issues to their plan. One will focus on working adults and the other on aging in place.Thanks to the alderpeople for being open to suggestions from the community. 

as several large apartment complexes in Carrboro and Chapel Hill stop accepting Section 8 vouchers (in a climate where the Section 8 voucher waiting list is so long that it was closed a long time ago).Check out this story about this looming crisis: http://wunc.org/post/triangle-tenants-brace-themselves-section-8-cuts  

Last month, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen authorized the town manager to expend funds from the town's affordable housing fund to assist persons with Section 8 vouchers with their relocation expenses (specifically, rental and utility deposits). More information is available here.


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