BY John Foulkes
Chapel Hill Town Council approves funds for affordable housing
On Monday, the Chapel Hill Town Council set aside $688,395 for affordable housing in the fiscal year 2016 budget and decided to allocate funds to several non-profits through the Affordable Housing Development Reserve.
These funds are raised through its penny for affordable housing program — a program that takes a penny out of every dollar of property tax revenue. This year, these funds added up to $688,395.
The nonprofits receiving these funds receive recommendations from the Affordable Housing Advisory Board and are then approved by the Town Council.
This year, these organizations include the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation, or DHIC, Habitat for Humanity and the Community Home Trust, all of which plan to build affordable housing units.
The bulk of this money will go toward DHIC, which is receiving $450,000 to build affordable housing for seniors in a development called Greenfield Commons. The development will be built on an underdeveloped section of the Memorial Cemetery off Legion Road.
“It's almost impossible to build affordable housing in Chapel Hill due to our high prices for land,” Mayor Pam Hemminger said. “The $450,000 came from an equation that based on the number of units, the area’s average median income and the value of the land.”
Greenfield Commons is expected to have 69 affordable units for senior citizens.
“People would like to stay in Chapel Hill when they retire. Our housing prices are becoming very expensive, and we have a need for housing,” Hemminger said.
Habitat for Humanity, which is receiving $55,000, plans to develop two lots of land into seven to nine new homes in the Northside community.
“We serve a lot of folks who work in the University, such as house keeping staff and other lower paid services,” Susan Levy, executive director of the Orange County Habitat for Humanity, said. “We’re really excited, the town funding really helped.”
Levy would like to engage the University more and to partner with UNC students help build these homes when development begins this fall.
The Community Home Trust will be using its share of the funds, totaling $55,000, to reduce the prices of three homes that it is trying to sell to make them more affordable.
To reduce the prices of the homes, the Trust will use $37,000 of the Town’s funds along with an additional $35,000 that the Self-Help Credit Union secured from the Oak Foundation.
“Those two sources of subsidy will allow us to reduce the price of the home by $70,000. That will make it affordable to a family that makes about $55,000,” Robert Dowling, executive director of the Community Home Trust, said in an email. “This is the first time we have applied for this local money, which the Town Council has allocated for the past two fiscal years.”
Council Member Jessica Anderson said that she supports the council's decision to help these organizations.
“I think its great. I totally support our partners who’re doing a fantastic job," Anderson said.
"We have an interesting group of organizations, because they each hit different parts of the affordable housing projects. They help different groups, people with different income brackets.”
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