Rich said the University attracts professionals, professors and individuals with a higher level of education who thus receive larger salaries.
As a result, many people associated with the University can afford to pay more for housing, which raises prices. People who do not fit in this category are financially “boxed out,” Rich said.
“Living in a college town has its consequences when it comes to housing,” she said.
Employees who live outside of town commute to work, which increases traffic congestion and lessens air and water quality, according to the town website.
Tracey Link, an assistant at the town’s Parks and Recreation Administrative Office who lives in Durham, said she wishes she could live closer to work because of high gas prices.
And she isn’t the only one.
James Banks, who has been a parking supervisor for 16 years, drives 28 miles to work from Person County every morning.
But he said living in another county is more affordable in the long run.
“House prices are too high in Chapel Hill,” Banks said. “Person County has lower taxes too.”
Orange County’s property tax rate of $0.86 per $100 ranks among the highest in the state, making it difficult for lower-income individuals to afford.
But Banks said he enjoys living in his country home “off the grid.”
“There is a lot more freedom outside of town,” he said. “I can park anywhere on my lawn.”
Chapel Hill enacted an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance in June 2010 to combat rising housing prices and avoid a situation where only higher income people can live in the town.
This ordinance mandates that new residential developments set aside a percentage of units that are affordable to low- to moderate-income households.
Loryn Clark, the Planning Department’s neighborhood and community services manager, said organizations like Community Home Trust also provide affordable housing.
Community Home Trust is a nonprofit organization that allows low- to moderate-income families who live or work in Orange County to live in desirable communities by lowering housing prices below market value.
As Chapel Hill’s population increases and the town finalizes its Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan, Rich said affordable housing is a priority.
“We will always be asking questions,” she said. “How do we diversify the town? How do we keep people here?”
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