The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

No ordinance needed: Chapel Hill needs ?exibility in working with developers

A proposed Chapel Hill town ordinance requiring home builders to mark off 15 percent of their new units as affordable housing strikes the right tone.

But the ordinance is unnecessary; it’s important for the town to maintain some flexibility in working to attract developers.

Even without an ordinance, the town has been pretty successful in negotiating with developers to keep affordable housing needs in mind.

Low-cost housing is certainly a worthy goal when considering the current real estate market of the area. Even with the economic downturn, the average home in Chapel Hill sells for about $342,000.

With such high pricing, town officials are worried that lower- to medium-income workers are finding it harder and harder to live in the area. And they are right to be concerned.

The real crux of the issue, though, is whether this is the best way to go about providing affordable housing — not if the housing is needed.

An ordinance would hinder the town’s ability to negotiate and attract developers, who might be less willing to work with the town because of the concrete policy. So maintaining a level of flexibility is important.

Further, having developers set aside low-cost units is not the only way to address the affordable housing issue.

In Carrboro, developers have the option to donate money and time to the Community Home Trust, an organization that provides homes between $90,000 and $150,000, priced between 30 and 50 percent below their appraisal values. This functions as a workable alternative.

The idea behind the town’s ordinance is important. Making sure there is low-cost housing in Chapel Hill should be a priority.

But adding a strict ordinance is not the right way to go. Chapel Hill should remain as flexible as possible so as not to drive developers away.

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