In November 2016, Orange County voters will consider a bond referendum to support both living and learning.
On Tuesday night, the Board of County Commissioners approved a motion to put $120 million toward school repairs and $5 million toward affordable housing. The interconnectedness of these needs was especially evident at the meeting, with signs and stories from both representatives from affordable housing organizations and local parents.
“As we all know, affordable housing is unfortunately scarce in the county,” Inter-Faith Council Project Manager Allan Rosen said. “By serving households with at risk kids, you will get extra bang for the buck."
The commissioners had previously proposed putting money from the referendum toward improvements to school buildings.
Representatives from the Inter-Faith Council, Habitat for Humanity and the Community Empowerment Fund had advocated that the board put at least $10 million toward affordable housing.
Commissioners Mark Dorosin and Penny Rich both expressed disappointment in the amount given to affordable housing.
“It’s the best that we’re gonna get on affordable housing, but it’s disappointing at best,” Dorosin said.
EmPowerment, Inc., Executive Director Delores Bailey also advocated for $10 million of the bond to be put toward affordable housing.
She said federal funding is drying up and organizations that work to provide affordable housing are depending more and more on local funding, including bonds like this one. The organization provides 40 affordable housing rental units, but that’s not enough to avoid having to turn people away, Bailey said.
Bailey said she, along with the rest of the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition, would like to see the amount of money in the bond increased rather than divided between affordable housing and schools.
“It’s not either or,” Bailey said. “It’s both of us.”
The money for the schools will be split between the Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said CHCCS spokesman Jeff Nash, with 40 percent proposed to go to OCS and 60 percent proposed to go to CHCCS.
Nash said the money will go toward the first step in a three-phase project to improve school buildings.
“We’ve got a lot of needs,” Nash said.
This bond will go toward making repairs to Chapel Hill High School and Glenwood Elementary School, expanding Phoenix Academy High School, the district’s alternative school, and consolidating the district’s preschool programs at its 11 elementary schools into one facility at the Lincoln Center.