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The Daily Tar Heel

Despite new development, Orange County struggles to provide affordable housing

At a briefing Thursday morning on 2016 regional growth and development called Spaces & Places, a room of developers, planners and public officials heard about the state of development in Orange, Durham and Chatham counties from a panel of peers and like-minded professionals.

“We lost the ability to house our lower income residents a long, long time ago,” said Mark Zimmerman, owner of real estate agency RE/MAX Winning Edge in Chapel Hill. “We’ll begin to lose the ability to house middle income people soon, too.”

While Zimmerman said the cost of living in Orange County is partially to blame for residents being priced out, he said it had more to do with a lack of homes on the market.

“We have a real shortage of inventory,” he said.

According to Zimmerman, the average single home sale price in Orange County is $401,000 — 6 percent higher than Durham County. Zimmerman also said Orange County has built 177 new homes since July 2015 compared to 600 in Durham County.

Commercial development

While new commercial developments in Orange County have happened quickly, Dwight Bassett, Chapel Hill’s economic development officer, said the change is good.

“The future can be better than the Chapel Hill that’s in our mind,” Bassett said.

He ran through a number of projects happening in Orange County, including Carolina Square, Glen Lennox, Obey Creek and Caraway Village.

Most of those developments will be mixed-use, and according to Bassett, job creation is a key aspect of them.

“We hope more young people can stay to make us more economically and socially diverse,” Bassett said.

According to Bassett, the new development projects will create over one million square feet of office space and over 3,000 new housing units in Orange County.


While tourism in Chapel Hill continues to grow, Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the Chapel Hill and Orange County Visitors Bureau, said she’s most excited about Chapel Hill’s neighbor to the north.

“Hillsborough is the town to watch,” Paolicelli said. “The growth there is unbelievable. If only (Hillsborough) could build a hotel downtown.”

Unlike Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro have no shortage of hotels, as three new developments are currently underway.

“Hotels are a barometer for tourism and we have a 21 percent increase in hotel rooms coming,” said Paolicelli.

The new hotel projects include a 110-room Hyatt Place in Southern Village, the AC Hotel by Marriott on Rosemary Street and a five story Hilton Garden Inn that will break ground in Carrboro in early 2017.


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