The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday August 17th

Sustaining social equity: Creative solutions must accompany new development in Chapel Hill Carrboro

As new development in Chapel Hill and Carrboro moves forward town leaders must find creative solutions to serve the best interests of the collective community.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen recently took such a flexible approach to town growth policies in approving Downtown Urban Ventures' most recent of mixed-use projects in the area.

Officials agreed to bypass existing affordable housing guidelines which aim to diversify residential communities.

Developers are required to make 15 percent of their units affordable to median-income buyers but units are typically too small for families and fall short of diversifying resident makeup.

Downtown Urban Ventures will instead be allowed to provide cash payment to the town's affordable housing fund.

The money might be more effective in supporting affordable housing initiatives of groups like Habitat for Humanity and the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust.

While the aldermen's decision responds to the inadequacy of existing policies it's clear that we need a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to the development process.

Community should not take a backseat to development as we strive towards sustainability in Orange County. And all voices should be heard not just those of the biggest stakeholders.

Local forums have attempted to bridge the gap between developers and community.

But this is not always the outcome. Developers have faced community criticism for inadequate engagement outside of these formal events.

This disconnect between developers and community members creates a hierarchy that falls short of a larger vision for development.

Orange County's Comprehensive Plan Update points in the direction of sustainable growth. But just as we consider environmental protection and economic vitality as fundamental elements to this development policies must better advocate for social equity as part of a comprehensive sustainability.

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