The information session was the second of four that will take place on the topic of affordable housing.
Dwight Bassett, economic development officer for the town, said housing values in Chapel Hill have grown by 3,117 percent since 1990. During the same time period, incomes have grown by only 332.86 percent, he said.
Bassett said there is a significant unmet demand for affordable housing in the town. Council member Maria Palmer said she has seen the effects of the town’s lack of low-cost housing.
“I know families of three renting half of a two-bedroom apartment,” she said. “If you are working with families in poverty, you know that a lot of people are dealing with housing by doing things that can be unhealthy for the family.”
Bassett estimated that there is an unmet need for 10,921 affordable housing units for households earning 50 to 120 percent of the median income. He said there were 23,827 total housing units in Chapel Hill as of 2010.
“In the 1990s, the middle to lower end of the market was generally well-supported,” Bassett said. “In 2010, we see substantial growth and skewing towards the upper end of the market.”
Demand for affordable housing generally comes from three groups of people: millennials, baby-boomers and families that have had difficulty recovering from the 2008 economic crisis, said Robert Hickey, senior research associate at the National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy.
“All of these groups have an increased demand for smaller and lower-cost housing,” Hickey said.
“These different crowds are competing for the same housing options.”
Hickey said many towns in America are facing an affordability crisis, and there are solutions to the problem that can be implemented through policy decisions.
For example, development options can be expanded by making publicly owned land available for affordable housing, rezoning land to allow mixed-use developments and allowing smaller homes to be built on smaller lots, Hickey said.
Other ways of increasing access to affordable housing include creating strong incentives or requirements for the private market to build affordable housing, he said.
“What I have noticed is that when some places are upzoning places, they include significant incentives for developers to include affordable housing to get access to more favorable zoning,” Hickey said.