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Learn more about the affordable housing bond referendum on the ballot this year

Greenfield Place apartments in Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of Sarah Viñas.

In November, residents of Chapel Hill will be voting on a referendum to decide whether the Town should raise funds for a $10 million general bond for the purpose of affordable housing. 

This bond is part of an agenda outlined by the Chapel Hill Town Council, which states Chapel Hill should be a place for everyone. The Town will be able to meet this target by raising the funds necessary to support lower- and medium-income families.

Robert Dowling, the executive director at Community Home Trust, an organization working with the Town of Chapel Hill on the bond, said he thinks the bond is good because funds are not coming from the federal government.

“You cannot build affordable housing without subsidy," Dowling said. "The federal government is not a big supporter of affordable housing. The federal dollars toward affordable housing have been declining."

Over half of renters in Chapel Hill are extremely cost burdened, making housing expensive without any financial support.

Susan Levy, executive director at Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, said there is a crisis in the county.

"There's a gap of at least 2.000 homes that are needed for folks who’d like to live here, that earn less than 80 percent the area median income," she said. "There’s a huge shortage on rental housing. The rent has gone up astronomically over the past years. There’s very little opportunity for someone with modest income to afford housing.” 

Payment of the bond will be through a tax raise in one penny per $100 valuation of the property.

An investment plan from the Town details the $10 million bond. The bond can be used by households with moderate income for needs such as acquisition of property, home repairs and construction of new affordable housing units.

Priorities also include rental housing serving households with less than 60 percent of the area median income. Housing for the disabled, elderly and homeless will also be a priority of the bond.

The housing provided is intended to be affordable in the long term.

The housing will be placed near transit services, which will give people living in the affordable housing the opportunity to use public transport.

"There's just very little opportunity for anyone of modest income to be able to afford to live in our community," Levy said. "This includes many a people who work in the lower paying jobs — the University, the hospital, the retail sector."

The bond will go toward constructing 400 new affordable housing units and preserving 300 existing affordable housing units. Levy said the $10 million bond is significant, but it’s not going to solve the problem itself. 

"There will be a need for additional funds down the line," she said.

Election day in Chapel Hill is on Nov. 6, but absentee ballots can be cast until then. Early voting begins Wednesday and is open until Nov. 3.

There will also be a rally taking place Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street to encourage early voting for the referendum.


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