One developer, Mark Patmore, director of Mercia Residential Properties, said the current regulation limiting floor area to 1,750 square feet discourages families from moving into the neighborhood.
“I am not a proponent of the conservation district,” he said. “By encouraging these regulations they are actually taking away wealth from these families by devaluing their properties.”
The Northside neighborhood is historically one of the largest African-American communities in Chapel Hill but has seen a slow, but steady, uptick in gentrification brought on by a larger student population seeking better housing.
The number of African-Americans living in Northside has decreased from 1,159 in 1980 to 690 in 2010.
To mitigate this trend, the town made the Northside neighborhood a conservation district with a different set of zoning laws, including prohibiting most new duplexes with the goal of preserving homes for working-class families.
Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Palmer said she was at the open house to hear residents’ feedback.
“I have to vote on all these regulations, and so I wanted to hear from the neighbors and investors — from the nonprofits,” she said.
Palmer said she was still unsure of how she would vote on the proposed changes.
Tyler Momsen-Hudson, construction director of the Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, explained how his organization was planning on developing three properties in Northside.
Momsen-Hudson said these houses, which range from duplexes to single-family residences, would service people living on 30 to 60 percent of the average median income and that his goal was to provide more affordable housing.
“Northside is like any other neighborhood,” he said. “There’s always room for more affordable housing.”
Members of Self-Help, a Durham-based nonprofit, were there as well. Self-Help is one organization working alongside the Jackson Center and the Northside Neighborhood Initiative to use a $3 million loan from UNC to begin a program that purchases at-risk properties until they can be given to new homeowners or renters.
Input from neighborhood residents at this meeting could help town officials make decisions about what will happen to the property.