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New affordable housing development comes to Carrboro, Chapel Hill

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Layout of the affordable housing plans on South Merritt Mill Road. Photo courtesy of the Town of Carrboro.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro are teaming up with the non-profit CASA to build an affordable housing development on South Merritt Mill Road.

CASA is an affordable housing developer that works throughout the Triangle purchasing, rehabbing and constructing low-cost homes. The Carrboro Board of Aldermen approved CASA's request to rezone the Merritt Mill property on March 27 to allow for the high density construction of the affordable housing complex.

The three story, 48 unit apartment will straddle the border between Chapel Hill and Carrboro and serve a variety of income levels. Many of the units will be for households making up to 60 percent of the area median income.

The development will be located on a free bus line and will be walkable from Downtown Carrboro and Downtown Chapel Hill. It will feature a play area for children and a clubhouse. 

“As with other CASA developments, our goal is that if there’s any reason that our property looks different on the block, it’s because it’s better than what else is there,” said Jess Brandes, CASA’s housing developer. “We want our properties to look great and a place that everybody wants to live. We want our tenants to love their home and take pride in their home, and stay there for years and years.”

A little over half of the Merritt Mill Apartment’s funding will be provided through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, which provides tax credits through the Internal Revenue Service, Brandes said. CASA has also received a variety of donations, including a grant from Strowd Roses, Inc. Both the Town of Chapel Hill and the Town of Carrboro have contributed well over $300,000 to the project. 

“This is a big deal for us because we haven’t done anything in a while, so we are really excited about this opportunity to partner with CASA and the Town of Chapel Hill on this project,” Carrboro Alderman Barbara Foushee said. “As a board and as a town we are supportive of affordable housing, and we are willing to do whatever we need to do to get a bigger stock of it in our community.”

As need for affordable housing across different incomes grows, policy-makers are stepping up to accommodate the demand.

“Moving a project like this along meets so many of our goals and is consistent with so many of the values that we are trying to uplift here," Board of Aldermen member Damon Seils said. 

In the past, affordable housing has had a bad reputation, Brandes said. In more recent years, however, as the affordability crisis has expanded to include more occupations, affordable housing across the income spectrum has become more sought after by communities. 

“To have affordable housing in Chapel Hill and Carrboro can help to take the negative stigma away and really give folks of mixed income a chance to foster relationships with folks they otherwise wouldn’t have contact with,” Foushee said.

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