Carrboro Aldermen hope to make housing affordable

With more than 50 percent of Carrboro residents burdened by their rent or mortgage, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen is taking action to make housing more affordable.

“In part we are a victim of our own success,” said Alderman Sammy Slade. “Carrboro is a nice place to live, so a lot of people want to live here, which makes property more expensive.”

On Tuesday, the board heard recommendations for preserving affordable housing in the town. The report’s main goals are increasing the supply and quality of affordable housing units in Carrboro and helping people stay in their current homes.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING
  • June 2012: The Carrboro Board of Aldermen formed the Affordable Housing Task Force.
  • October 2012: The Carrboro Planning Board hosted the Affordable Housing Dialogue series as part of National Community Planning Month.
  • November 2012: Residents of Collins Crossing Apartment Homes in Carrboro protest rising rents.
  • January 2012: The Board of Aldermen discuss taking over the Collins Crossing complex in order to preserve affordable housing.

The report, created by the town planning board and Transportation Advisory Board, consists of 12 recommendations — including establishing a public-private housing trust fund and making the Affordable Housing Task Force a permanent committee.

The North Carolina Housing Coalition and the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning provided research and data to the board and helped facilitate community dialogues in October.

According to the report, 55 percent of homeowners and 53 percent of renters in Carrboro spend more than 30 percent of their wages on housing.

Slade said one goal of the planning board is to ensure Carrboro residents’ rent or mortgage doesn’t exceed that percentage of their household’s income.

The mean renter wage in Orange County is $9.67 per hour, meaning an average person would have to work 62 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.

At minimum wage, or $7.25, a person would have to work two jobs to afford this rent.

And at $779, fair market rent is much higher in Orange County than in other parts of the state.

Slade attributes these rates to the attractiveness of Orange County as a place to live, which has increased demand.

“It’s walkable, bikeable, close to the University, has a great school system and there’s free transit,” he said. “These are things that over time have attracted a lot of people to Carrboro.”

But Slade said he has recently noticed a lot of people moving to Durham because it’s more affordable.

Damon Seils, member of the Carrboro Planning Board and Board of Aldermen candidate, said Carrboro’s assets have led to rising property values — another reason why living in Orange County has become less affordable.

The Affordable Housing Task Force will look at the recommendations to determine its next step, Seils said.

And Slade said the task force will have to be creative in addressing the problem.

“As federal money disappears, options become less feasible, and it’s harder to sustain what little we have been doing,” he said.

“The economy has made it even harder when the need for affordable housing is greatest.”

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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