“The problems, of course, are the skyrocketing costs of housing throughout Chapel Hill, the challenge of competing with the student rental market which is very difficult and the press of a community that is continuing to try and maintain its diversity and affordability,” said Hudson Vaughan, senior director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center.
In hopes of alleviating some of these issues, a partnership between UNC, Durham-based community developer Self-Help, the Jackson Center and the town of Chapel Hill created the Northside Neighborhood Initiative, supported by a $3 million loan from UNC.
“The Northside Neighborhood Initiative is a way to focus on how do we balance the market and bend it toward justice and how do we really have a family-friendly community that also has students and long-term neighbors in engagement with one another and in community with one another,” Vaughan said.
Kim Hoppin, who has lived in Northside since 1992, said she has seen changes in the neighborhood.
“When I moved in it was about half permanent residents and half college kids,” Hoppin said. “Over the course of the last ten years is probably when it really shifted from being owner-occupied to college kids.”
Hoppin said she can relate to student residents.
“Obviously I can’t complain about the fact that there are lots of college students around me because I was one and it’s not bad in and of itself,” she said. “I would just appreciate a balance more.”
Cleo Caldwell, a long-time resident of Northside, said most students respect the other residents.
“Whenever they move in, I always introduce myself because this is my home, I grew up here and I know the whole neighborhood,” she said. “The students here — they’re pretty good, and I was once in college, so I know how it is.”
She said there are ways to keep student residents in check.
“A lot of times when they’re partying they know, cut your music off when it gets dark,” Caldwell said. “There is a 911 number if they have their music too loud, but we don’t even have to deal with that because they know, they respect the neighborhood.”
Senior Rachel Rainier moved to Northside in August.
“We like it in Northside,” Rainier said. “We had a barbecue in September where they had the long-time residents and the students all meet somewhere. And they had a lot of food and stuff, so it was really nice.”
Rainier said she and her housemates try to respect long-term residents.
“We try to respect not being too loud or having too many people over, but I’d like to think if they had a problem with anything they would be able to come up and say that,” Rainier said.
Vaughan said the Northside Neighborhood Initiative improved relationships between student and long-term residents.
“We’ve had a 60 percent reduction in noise and nuisance violations in the neighborhood, which was initially an issue several years ago,” he said.
Chapel Hill Town Council member Jessica Anderson said she hoped long-time residents and students will continue to improve their relationship.
“So often we talk about this as if it’s students versus residents, and that people are mad at the students,” Anderson said. “I don’t want to see us demonizing students or demonizing long-term residents — this is exactly the type of initiative we need in a university town when people are making decisions based upon their choices and economic availability.”
Anderson said she hoped people would remember diversity makes Chapel Hill special.
“I think we also need to realize what makes Chapel Hill so great is our student population,” Anderson said. “I’m kind of sensitive to the fact that I understand that it can be tricky, but I want us as a community to be supportive of both groups and not blaming either party.”
Vaughan said a lot of the work of the initiative has come out of years of work from community members to preserve the future of Northside. He believes they have involved hundreds of students in that effort too.
“The folks who have made Northside what it is, are the folks who have also built this community, this town,” he said. “Our vision would be one that they would be proud of and that they’re an integral part of.”