The collaboration, called Neighbors with Northside, was first announced on Jan. 20 and is part of a broader Habitat initiative to build nine homes in Northside.
“This is really the first time in 10 years that we’ve actually been able to build in Northside,” said Susan Levy, executive director of Orange County Habitat for Humanity.
Levy said that, of the nine lots needed, two were donated directly by the University and six were purchased through a land bank, which buys properties in Northside as they become available using money originally from a $3 million loan from UNC.
Meg McGurk, executive director of the downtown partnership, said the organizations have been planning Neighbors with Northside since the fall.
“Our role is to be a strong partner and advocate for the work that Habitat is doing,” McGurk said.
“It stems from an interest from our organization to support the large community value of affordable housing, to be a resource for our growing residential base downtown and to support the incredible work being done by the town, the University and community organizations in the Northside neighborhood.”
Savanna Melton, communications coordinator for Orange County Habitat, said the process of garnering support and donations is progressing well.
“Right now it’s in kind of the starting phases: encouraging people to get involved, to help build this home, and to really come together in the Northside community,” Melton said.
McGurk said this work will kick off in March with the home that the downtown partnership has been particularly focusing its efforts on.
Its future owners, Thein Oo, his wife Lweh Eh Paw and their two children, are originally from Burma. Oo now works at UNC as a housekeeper.
“As a community, we’ll be raising $50,000 toward an $80,000 cost for materials for the home,” Melton said. “This can be raised through personal or company donations, special fundraising events, give-back nights.”
In bringing together members of the community for construction, Levy said Habitat helps educate people about a neighborhood they may not have much experience with.
“I think it’s a way to help educate people who then can also become advocates for affordable housing and advocates, in this case, for the Northside community,” she said.
For the Northside neighborhood, which owes its creation to former sharecroppers and freed people looking for work at UNC in the late 19th century, an appreciation of this history can be valuable.
“A lot of the homeowners that are moving in there have either grown up in Northside or have some kind of connection to Northside, so it’s really special to be able to put families back into the neighborhood where they have so much history,” Melton said.