The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 8th

Carrboro may gives raises to town employees

The cost of living in Carrboro has long been considered a barrier to many low-wage workers — and even to some of the town’s own employees.

On Tuesday, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen discussed implementing a housing wage policy for all town employees to combat this problem.

LIVING WAGE

$24,502
Carrboro

$24,773
Durham

$23,004
Chapel Hill

The housing wage policy would give a raise to 15 town employees whose annual salaries are below $31,160 — the amount needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at $779 per month in Orange County, according to the North Carolina Housing Coalition.

The housing wage policy would replace Carrboro’s current living wage policy, which is based on the federal poverty level for a family of four and adjusted for the local cost of living.

Alderman Damon Seils said he supports changing to a housing wage policy.

“If an employer agrees to provide a housing wage, it’s an agreement to make sure employees can live in the community in which they work,” he said.

With the current living wage policy, town employees must be paid at least $24,502 annually, or $11.78 per hour.

According to town documents, no current town employee makes less than $26,489, or $12.74 per hour.

But some town leaders say these pay rates still don’t ensure that town workers can afford to live in Carrboro.

Judith Blau, executive director of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Human Rights Center, said the board’s discussion proves there is a lack of affordable housing in the area.

“This is distressing news,” she said. “But it drives home the point that there’s a dwindling supply of affordable housing in Carrboro.”

In February, the Board of Aldermen received a report on ways to make housing more affordable in the town.

The 12 recommendations detailed in the report included establishing a public-private housing trust fund and making the Affordable Housing Task Force a permanent committee.

Lauren Knott, spokeswoman for the N.C. Housing Coalition, said this affordability problem is not isolated to Orange County.

“Across the state, there are many different professions that aren’t being paid enough to afford to live in their area,” she said.

“If you look at rural counties, they have the same difficulties.”

Seils said the board could also opt to implement a housing allowance instead of a housing wage.

If the board implements the housing allowance, the employees would not get a raise in their salary, but would receive a stipend to help them cover housing costs.

“I think we still need some more information from staff about how each of the options would work,” he said. “I expressed some concerns about housing allowance.”

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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