The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday May 28th

Officials: Census Proves Local Housing Needs

The 2000 U.S. Census report states that Chapel Hill's population has increased by 26 percent since 1990, and Carrboro's population has increased by 45 percent.

Orange County's total population increase in the past decade was 26 percent, to a total count of 118,227.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Flicka Bateman said providing affordable housing for the greater number of residents is not easy given the scarcity of undeveloped land in Chapel Hill.

"We're trying, but it's a very hard goal to meet," she said.

Bateman said Orange County will hold a bond referendum in November that will include $2 million for affordable housing development.

Bateman said if the bond passes, nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity will build the houses and that the cost of buying them will be subsidized by the bond money.

Bateman also said that not only people in the lowest income levels have trouble affording local housing.

"When we talk about affordable housing, we're talking about housing for nurses, firemen and teachers," she said.

Council member Pat Evans said the town's need for funding increases with the population and that officials are considering a tax increase in the near future.

"Even without the (budget) alarm coming from the state, we were looking into a tax increase," she said.

Evans added that Chapel Hill's high cost of living is a trade-off for the high quality of service from the local government.

Carrboro's population increase also has sparked concern about a need for more affordable housing.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen has been reworking Carrboro's Small Area Plan during recent years to accommodate the expected growth, Alderman Jacquelyn Gist said.

The Small Area Plan lays out the development and expansion of Carrboro's northern region.

Alderman Diana McDuffee said that under the plan, developers in Carrboro are encouraged to build more affordable cluster housing.

She also said the plan includes a density bonus that lets developers build more housing than is normally allowed if they agree to build a certain amount of affordable, low-income housing. "Affordable housing is the toughest issue facing our community," McDuffee said.

McDuffee said creating affordable housing is especially difficult because the town does not own or develop residential land. "All we can do is encourage developers to provide more affordable housing," she said.

Alderman Jacquelyn Gist said Carrboro's fast growth was no surprise, citing improved housing and good schools as factors that make the area attractive to families.

Gist also said the town has an urban sophistication that makes it an attractive home for retired people looking for a stimulating environment and for immigrants seeking work. "What's interesting is we're definitely changing the profile of Carrboro," she said. "It's a lot browner than it was 10 years ago."

According to the census report, Carrboro's Hispanic population increased ninefold since 1990, and its Asian population has doubled.

Gist said one of the town's goals is to be able to "grow and still maintain social and environmental integrity."

Evans said Chapel Hill's population increase was in line with the steady growth rate officials had expected.

"We know we're an attractive area with lots of jobs and that makes people want to come live here."

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