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Having trouble performing? HUD thought Chapel Hill was, too

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently evaluated the affordable housing in Chapel Hill and ranked the town as a “troubled performer.”

The reason for the low ranking, however, was because of a clerical error. Town Manager Roger Stancil said that the score is based largely on a mathematical formula and that numbers were put in the wrong box on the HUD form.

“Because we miscoded it and put it in the wrong box, it made it seem like we had too little money in our operating account,” he said.

Stancil also said the HUD measures how well a town is renting its affordable units to people who need them.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said there was concern in the evaluation because the town hadn’t spent the funds allocated for the complex at Trinity Court, located off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

"The Trinity Court has been vacated,” she said. “It is an opportunity to do a major rehab. That’s why we didn’t get the money spent down in the timeframe because it takes time to get people situated.”

Because of the low score, HUD officials scheduled to meet with Chapel Hill town staff. The meeting was originally scheduled for January of this year but was canceled due to snow several times, so it wasn't rescheduled until April.

Hemminger said the issue could have been resolved sooner if the meeting didn’t have to wait so long for the weather. The new forms, however, have been submitted, and the town score is being reevaluated.

In their visit to Chapel Hill, HUD officials gave the town permission to move forward with their plans on the Trinity Court apartments. Stancil said in May they are scheduled to present a report to the council on the progress of rehabilitating the complex.

Moving forward, Business Management Director for the town Ken Pennoyer said his staff will independently calculate the town’s score based on HUD criteria to determine what specific areas can be improved.

They also plan to calculate the financial score prior to submitting the forms in the future to determine if there are any errors.

The town apologizes for any concern that the original score may have caused for the community, Stancil said, but that it resulted from a ripple effect caused by miscoding.

“We’re very close to everybody,” he said. “The reaction that we get at a local level can sometimes be much different than how you see it if you’re sitting in a regional or federal office.”

Hemminger said that affordable housing is a vital part of Chapel Hill’s mission.

“This was a clerical error that came forward, but we want people to feel secure in the fact that we are going to create more affordable housing and do it both as a town and as a partnership,” she said.


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