A new initiative to incentivize Chapel Hill town employees to live within the town was presented Wednesday to the Chapel Hill Town Council. After several months of research, the Office of Housing and Community offered their research and ideas for feedback.
Surveys and research groups were conducted among town employees who commute 30 minutes or more to work to gauge need and interest. The program plans to offer options to employees for both renting and buying in town limits, offering incentives like closing cost assistance, down payment assistance, matched home ownership savings and financial counseling.
According to the surveys, 50 percent of employees who do not live in Chapel Hill wish they did and 84 percent of those living outside of town said housing costs were the main barrier.
Town employees have expressed interested in this type of program in the past, said Sarah Viñas, assistant director of Housing and Community and the program's project manager. The committee, however, is still in the process of exploring options.
“We are recommending developing a pilot program for employee incentives that would include a menu of options because we recognize that not every employee has the same housing preferences,” Viñas said. “Some people want to rent, some want to own, so we think it makes sense to have a menu of options for people to choose from.”
After receiving feedback from the town council, the Office of Housing and Community will begin to develop a pilot program. Eligibility criteria, budget and financial counseling for employees will be put into place before the intended launch of the pilot in July 2019 at the start of the fiscal year.
Council member Nancy Oates was happy to see that the planning and research process had been going well. Oates said she was also excited about the new research that'd be gained in the process, since it will provide more insight about what kind of housing town residents actually want.
"We were making decisions in the dark (about affordable housing)," Oates said. "I was really pleased when the town staff said they were going to start doing these focus groups and talking to municipal employees about what they wanted.”
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