Affordable housing strategic five-year plan presented to Orange County commissioners

April was made Sexual Assault Awareness Month, National County Government Month and Fair Housing Month with three unanimous votes at the Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

The board also discussed the food council, affordable housing, calling 911 and the N.C. General Assembly at the meeting.

The commissioners acknowledged the work the Orange County Rape Crisis Center does for survivors of sexual assault and then named April 2016 Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

April also became National County Government month and Fair Housing Month, which marks the 48th anniversary of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the 33rd anniversary of the North Carolina Fair Housing Act, which both prohibit discrimination of any kind in housing.

“This board remains committed to ensuring no one is excluded and no one is treated unfairly,” Commissioner Earl McKee said.

April is also 911 education month, and April 10 to April 16 is Public Safety Telecommunications week, Kevin Medlin, the interim operation manager for 911 communications, said.

Medlin also said during Public Safety Communications week, the 911 center will have an open house for the public to tour the facility and see how it works.

The Orange County Food Council hopes to have its board ready to meet for the first time in 30 to 60 days. An update was presented regarding the status of the council’s formation and responding to a request that one of the commissioners join the food council.

Sarah Blacklin, program director for N.C. Choices at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, gave a presentation on a community food assessment the council performed.

“(The community food assessment gives) a holistic view of the Orange County food system, where to start building off energy that is happening, as well as filling in any gaps (in the system),” Blacklin said.

Commissioner Barry Jacobs volunteered to join the food council board, which consists of 11 community seats and one seat each for local officials in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and Orange County.

Audrey Spencer-Horsley, director of Orange County housing, human rights and community development department, presented an affordable housing strategic plan that gave a broad five-year plan to expand subsidized housing opportunities for residents.

Spencer-Horsley said the goal of the plan was to meet housing needs by creating 1,000 assisted community housing units, 500 of which would be new constructions and 500 others which would be created from facilities that already exist.

“There is a need (for affordable housing) across the spectrum, but when you have limited resources, you have to prioritize,” Spencer-Horsley said.

The board later discussed items in a legislative package that listed 33 statewide matters to bring to the N.C. General Assembly short session.

After a public hearing, the board identified five items in the package that they would bring up as a priority at the N.C. General Assembly session.

The first item was to raise the age from 16 to 18 for juveniles who are treated as adults in criminal court. 

The second item was to prioritize school issues, including calendar flexibility and driver education funding.

The third item was to expand broadband capability to underserved areas of the state to create jobs and foster business and farm development.

The fourth item was to seek legislative action that will provide all North Carolina governments the authority to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes that will protect them from discriminatory practices.

The fifth item was to clarify that farms on which the production of crops or livestock is the primary use are the only properties that qualify for an exemption in a previous zoning law.

Noteable: 

The board added an amendment to the class protection item in the N.C. General Assembly packet that repeals House Bill 2. The bill requires people to use gender-specific public restrooms that correspond to their biological sex.

Quotable: 

“We hope you will keep acknowledging affordable housing as a high priority,” Self-Help Credit Union Director of Business Development Daniel Levine said to the board after the affordable housing strategic plan. 

@meganroyer

city@dailytarheel.com


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