Residents urged the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to allocate more funds to providing safe and affordable housing for its constituents in a Tuesday meeting.
At the regular Board of County Commissioners meeting, the public was finally allowed to voice their opinions on the proposed $125 million dollar bond for 2016.
The commissioners held a rushed vote in April, in which they proposed to allocate the full $125 million to the maintenance and expansion of schools in Orange County.
The majority of residents that spoke were proponents for affordable housing. Several residents said they wanted the commissioners to expand the bond issue to allow $10 to $13 million to go towards affordable housing, where it had previously been completely left out.
Because the commissioners focused only on education in the proposal for the bond issue, representatives of affordable housing organizations and residents who lived in subsidized housing spoke on the importance of the availability of safe and affordable housing for children who are in school.
“Children who live in poverty and inadequate housing do not do well in school,” said former N.C. Senator Ellie Kinnaird.
She said she came before the board to speak on behalf of the large, but quiet, constituency that cannot afford safe and stable housing.
“We cannot pit schools against affordable housing — they go hand in hand,” said Delores Bailey, asking the board to add more money to the 2016 bond. Bailey is the executive director of EmPowerment, Inc., an affordable housing organization.
In addition to affordable housing, many residents said they wanted the commissioners to consider the needs of the elderly population in Orange County.
Representatives from Friends of the Senior Center for Central Orange, Inc., said there are more seniors in Orange County than there are children in schools, and the senior population is expected to grow drastically in the next 20 years.
“Baby boomers are coming to Chapel Hill,” said Orange County clergyman Robert Seymour.
He said the growing senior citizen population presented a pressing need for the county commissioners to consider when determining how to spend the bond.
“I hope that you will not see seniors as a liability but that you will see seniors as a resource,” Seymour said.
Earl McKee, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, said the board would take the public’s comments into consideration and there would be another opportunity for residents to speak on the issue at the meeting on Oct. 6.