The Chapel Hill Town Council took the first step Wednesday to put a $10 million affordable housing bond referendum on the November ballot despite calls from residents for a larger effort.
“I’ve certainly been convinced that we need to do a bond, there’s no doubt in my mind about that,” said councilperson Michael Parker. “We’ve never tried, as a town, to commit this much money, and I want to make sure that we get the maximum value for every dollar we spend.”
Town Manager Roger Stancil recommended the council keep the bond at $10 million because it's a manageable amount of money that can be spent effectively.
The town’s Debt Fund will serve as a source of repayment for the bond but, because of the scale of proposed affordable housing projects, the repayment plan will likely require an increase in the fund’s dedicated property tax by 1 cent for every $100 in valuation.
A Chapel Hill property owner with property values of $350,000 would pay an increase of $35 per year in taxes, according to the town’s presentation.
The tentative plan calls for buying property and land, paying for home repairs and construction of new affordable housing units with the bond proceeds. It also recommends using the funds for town-initiated affordable housing projects, including a mixed-income development at 2200 Homestead Road and the redevelopment of public housing sites.
At the meeting, Chapel Hill residents encouraged the council to pass the preliminary bond resolution while also raising its limit to $15 million. Many argued $10 million won't cover all of the projects needed to expand affordable housing.
“I urge the city council to be bold, go as high as you can go,” Chapel Hill resident and retired naval officer Douglas Call said. “Get this money out there, spread it to (affordable housing) organizations.”
Heidi Dodson, an oral historian for the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, said the increased bond is necessary because many full-time employees still struggle to find affordable housing in Chapel Hill.