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The Daily Tar Heel

Northside Neighborhood Initiative works on affordable housing

As college students sign leases for off-campus houses for the next school year, long-time neighborhood residents prepare for another year of increasing rent and additional college students.

The Northside neighborhood has long been known as a vibrant community. Dan Levine, assistant director of real estate at Self-Help Credit Union, said the area is unique because of its diversity in age and income.

“This diversity plus the rich history of the neighborhood, which is intertwined with the (town’s) civil rights movement and generations of the town and university workforce, is an asset,” Levine said.

That’s why UNC-Chapel Hill, Self-Help Credit Union, the Marian Cheek Jackson Center and the Town of Chapel Hill formed a partnership known as the Northside Neighborhood Initiative. The initiative aims to advance efforts of nonprofit organizations that address the needs and goals of the multi-generational community. 

“The NNI helps show that collective action and collaboration--among local government, UNC, nonprofit agencies and community members themselves leads to better outcomes,” Levine said in an email.  “Together we are helping preserve the future of a wonderful neighborhood while providing much-needed workforce housing for existing and new residents of the neighborhood.”

According to an impact report from the initiative, the town’s financial support has allowed Self-Help to fund a full-time NNI construction manager based in Northside. The report said the construction manager will speed up the acquisition of land bank properties to lower the cost for homeowners and development partners.

Orange County Habitat for Humanity joined the Northside Neighborhood initiative in 2015 as a partner to help the community achieve its vision and goals.

Jennifer Player, associate executive director for Orange County Habitat for Humanity, said the organization began building homes in Northside in 2002. They've had a long relationship with the neighborhood focused on exterior and internal repairs.

Player said the proximity of Northside to Franklin Street, downtown Chapel Hill and UNC’s campus means it has and will likely continue to struggle with investors wanting to change the fabric of the community.

While she said the neighborhood is open to students and other renters entering the neighborhood, it still wants to maintain its history and character.

“When I spend time in the Northside Neighborhood with the residents there and I go to community gatherings and festivals and block parties that they have I see so much strength in that neighborhood,” Player said. “I think that the history of the neighborhood is what will continue to keep it strong.”


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