The Self-Help Credit Union, a nonprofit credit union located in Durham, and the Jackson Center will also be collaborating with the town and University to manage the investment.
Self-Help will buy properties and then sell them to residents and organizations who have the best interests of the neighborhood in mind.
“It is an opportunity for our community to be what it is intended to be: a community of life, of vitality, of family, of coming together,” lifelong Northside resident Kathy Atwater said. “It has been a long, long, long fight. I am standing on the shoulders of those who paved the way for us.”
Historically, the Northside neighborhood was the largest black community in Chapel Hill. But in the 10 years after 2000, the black population decreased by almost 25 percent to fewer than 700 people.
But during the past few decades, the black population and number of homeowners in the neighborhood have declined, while the college-age population has increased as the demand for student rentals has risen.
“Because students are interested in living in these neighborhoods, landlords have been able to rent their properties for far more than any family could afford. Houses that are available for purchase are often bought by investors and re-purposed as rentals,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.
The town has implemented a number of policies over the past decade to slow the influx of renters into the neighborhood, including limiting the occupancy of single-family homes to four unrelated people living together and limiting parking for these homes to only four cars in designated areas.
The town also created a conservation district around the area, which limited the size of new homes and prohibited the construction of most types of duplexes. The conservation district was created in 2004 and amended in 2012 after Chapel Hill town staff noticed an uptick in new building permits issued in the Northside neighborhood — the number went from two issued in 1997 to 16 issued in 1998.
Although the regulations and policies have been steps in the right direction, Kleinschmidt said more effort is needed to make them all work together.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt spoke about how important it is that the University is involved in the initiative.
“The truth is that UNC-Chapel Hill not only wants to be a part of this initiative, it must be a part of this initiative. Because we’re only as strong as the communities that we live with and in and work with,” she said.
Folt said she thinks it is essential for students who live in Northside to understand the historical significance of the neighborhood.
“I believe that we can do a lot of good by helping people understand that,” she said.
Esphur Foster, a lifelong resident of Northside, has lived with her family on Cotton Street for 74 years. She said she would like to see the community return to its roots.
“If I were asked the one thing I would want for this world, it would be that this neighborhood could once again become a place where families with young children could experience this community,” she said.
“I miss the sounds of children, cats and dogs.”
Atwater said she is glad the town, the University and Northside residents were all working together to make the initiative successful.
“In the Book of Acts, it talks about the church coming together and everybody having all things in common,” she said. “What we’re doing here today — town, University, community — is coming together, so that everybody will have all things in common.”