The duplex is part of an ongoing effort to drive down housing costs in the area. Chapel Hill was recently named the most expensive place to live in North Carolina by realty service Coldwell Banker.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Chapel Hill town councilman Jim Ward. “The demand is high, and the supply is low currently, which prompts more expensive houses being built — to take advantage of a wider profit margin.”
Councilwoman Donna Bell said having a large number of multi-individual households of students living off campus also tends to drive up housing prices.
“Most families can’t afford $500 a bedroom,” she said.
Ward said these high prices, while indicative of Chapel Hill’s vitality, cause problems for both low-income workers and large employers in Chapel Hill.
“UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Hospitals and Chapel Hill schools are the three largest employers in Chapel Hill,” he said. “All of them have employees that would benefit from more affordable housing.”
Susan Levy, executive director of Orange County Habitat for Humanity, is hopeful the new duplex will help low-income families looking for housing.
“(The families Habitat usually serves) earn somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 a year,” she said. “They can’t afford an average rental.”