The Orange County Housing, Human Rights and Community Development Department was recently awarded $170,000 by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency to assist with its 2014 Single-Family Rehabilitation Program, according to a press release.
The program’s purpose is to help renovate moderately deteriorated homes owned by lower-income residents, assisting with repairs, such as roof and door replacements.
Renee Holmes, the department’s housing programs coordinator, said the program improves homes and makes them more energy-efficient.
“Well, with this program, the goal is to take houses that are about 30 years old, maybe some older, and extend the life of the house,” Holmes said. “We will also put energy-efficient Energy Star appliances in the house to make them more energy-efficient.”
Residents qualify for the program if their household income is below 80 percent of the area median income and the household includes a resident who is disabled or over the age of 62.
For Orange County residents to be eligible, they must have an annual income of $36,800 or less for a single person or $42,050 for a two-person household. The application process began Tuesday and ends Oct. 31.
Robert Dowling, executive director of the Community Home Trust, said the growing number of rental properties in the Chapel Hill area has played a major role in the increasing need for affordable housing.
“It’s gotten worse over the years because there’s so much pressure on rental housing, particularly in places close to downtown,” he said. “And rents go higher and higher and higher, and regular working people can’t afford those escalating rents.”
Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell, of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, said she’s interested in seeing how the program affects the people in the Section 8 housing designed to help low-income families, the elderly and the disabled afford private housing. Several Orange County apartment complexes stopped accepting Section 8 vouchers this year.
Haven-O’Donnell said the number of students who end up living in Carrboro has impacted the cost of housing.
“The low-income families and the elderly often don’t have the opportunity to get into the housing because owners have rented them to students, and that is a problem for us,” she said.
About 17 percent of Orange County residents fell below the poverty level between 2008 and 2012. That number largely mirrored the state’s 16.8 percent rate, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
County Commissioner Earl McKee said the county’s poverty rate motivated the commissioners to provide financial incentives to organizations looking to increase affordable housing in the county.
McKee said he and the rest of the Orange County Board of Commissioners will further address the lack of affordable housing with the start of the new term, which began Thursday.
“We are acutely aware of the need for affordable housing in Orange County,” he said. “We are aware that Orange County’s housing prices have driven this to an extent, and we’re working to try to address it.”