Affordable housing initiative grows

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Sandra Lynch-Neagle celebrates at the Opening Doors fundraiser for the Community Home Trust. She bought the 200th home from the organization.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Sandra Lynch-Neagle was evicted multiple times. She was not evicted, but she was forced to move because of high costs of living in Chapel Hill. The story has been amended to reflect this.

Sandra Lynch-Neagle was forced to move multiple times before she and her three kids finally found a permanent home in the relatively expensive town of Chapel Hill.

Lynch-Neagle, a teacher at Chapel Hill High School, recently became the 200th purchaser of an affordable home from the Community Home Trust.

The organization, which preserves affordable homes in Orange County, hosted the second annual Opening Doors fundraiser Friday night to celebrate the sale of its 200th home.

The event was held in Greenbridge Condominiums, a Chapel Hill high-rise development where the town owns 15 permanently affordable condominiums as part of the Home Trust.

More than 150 people attended the event, including N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton and Bernadette Pelissier, chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Lynch-Neagle arrived in Chapel Hill with her three young sons in 2008 to teach for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

But the region’s high cost of living has forced her to move four times within the past five years.

The median value of owner-occupied housing units in Orange County is $258,800, according to U.S. Census Bureau Data from 2006-10.

“It was the first time in my adult life that I’ve been unable to afford a home,” said Lynch-Neagle.

But Lynch-Neagle said she found relief in the Home Trust, which provided her with an affordable home in a residential neighborhood.

The event’s ticket sales and silent auction, which raised about $25,000, will fund the Home Trust’s efforts to provide affordable housing options.

The Home Trust has faced many financial challenges since selling its first home 12 years ago.

Kleinschmidt said the difficulty lies in its financial model — which requires Chapel Hill to buy the units and sell them at lower prices that are affordable for low-to-moderate income residents.

He said most of the Home Trust recipients are teachers, health care employees or UNC staff members.

Robert Dowling, executive director of the Home Trust, said tighter lending requirements by banks have made it harder for his clients to find loans.

“It was much easier to do loans even two years ago after the financial crisis started,” he said.

The Home Trust benefited from the town’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, which mandates residential developments with five or more units to set aside 15 percent as permanently affordable units.

Prices for Greenbridge condominiums usually range from $500,000 to $1 million. But the building’s 15 affordable units owned by the Home Trust cost about $100,000. All of the affordable units are occupied.

“Not only are these affordable, but they’re beautiful,” said Lynch-Neagle. “Some of them are brand new, they’re in very desirable neighborhoods, they’re close to parks and trails and schools — all of the things any parent would want for her children.”

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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