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A year out, Northside Neighborhood Initiative is making strides

Northside residents are celebrating their one year anniversary of the Northside Initiative, a project that encourages locals to move back into the Northside area where there are college students.
Northside residents are celebrating their one year anniversary of the Northside Initiative, a project that encourages locals to move back into the Northside area where there are college students.

With houses below market price and the close proximity to campus and downtown Chapel Hill, developers moved in and started buying up properties at an alarming rate.

But not anymore.

The Northside Neighborhood Initiative is a partnership between the town of Chapel Hill, UNC, the nonprofit credit union Self-Help and the Jackson Center.

Announced in March 2015, the initiative will soon be a year old.

It aims to create a diverse neighborhood filled with families, students and the senior population, as well as honoring the rich history of Northside.

Focus on homeowners

In the past year, the initiative has put emphasis on keeping homes affordable for families. Self-Help is helming a land bank — a ‘bank’ made up of properties Self-Help bought in the community — that will be open to potential homebuyers.

Hudson Vaughan, deputy director of the Jackson Center, said in an email that the land bank has been able to secure six homes that will be used to reach families that would otherwise be unable to live in Northside.

Sarah Viñas, Chapel Hill housing and community planner, said one house has already been bought by Habitat for Humanity.

“They’re planning to build town homes and the town has supported that effort,” Viñas said.

Both Viñas and Vaughan said another component of the initiative includes the Promise of Home Repair program.

The program helps to repair the homes of the elderly and disabled.

“We have completed extensive repairs of five homes of elderly, long-time neighbors who have given their lives in service to this community,” Vaughn said.

A community effort

Vaughan said both students and long-time residents of Northside have come together through community events and forums.

“The Jackson Center has had over 250 students partner in efforts to preserve the future of Northside,” he said.

At a recent community meeting that discussed the role of the land bank, Vaughan said neighborhood leaders were excited to have an impact on the neighborhood’s future.

Kimberly Hoppin, a resident who has lived in the Northside neighborhood for more than 20 years, said she thinks the town’s efforts are good, but the problem is complicated.

“I don’t think the answer is simple,” Hoppin said.

But Hoppin said she believed there was room in the neighborhood for both college students and families.

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UNC senior Stephanie Katz said the Northside neighborhood is the perfect place for college students to live with its short commute to campus, but she recognized that college students aren’t the only ones living in Northside.

Moving forward

Viñas said the initiative is still working on collecting concrete data on the diversity in the neighborhood.

“We really need to know where things are,” Viñas said, regarding the demographics of the community.

She said there has been a shift in the number of African Americans living in Northside.

Vaughan said the initiative will continue pursuing the community’s vision for the neighborhood.

“(We will) continue to follow the direction of a great host of diverse neighbors who make this community special,” he said.

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