Chapel Hill voters approved a $10 million bond referendum that will pave the way for the construction of new affordable housing and provide support for low and median-income residents.
With 20 of 22 precincts reporting, 72.55 percent of Chapel Hill residents voted in favor of the referendum, and 27.45 percent voted against it.
The bond is part of the Town’s goal to be a place for everyone as the demand for housing drives up the cost for renters in the area. More than half of renters in Chapel Hill spend over 30 percent of their income on housing.
Jim Bartow, chairperson for the Orange County Democrats, said the party unanimously supported the bond.
“I live in the Northside precinct, and a lot of the money’s going to go there because it is a great place to do affordable housing,” he said. “This $10 million will help do that, so people who work in this town can live in this town.”
The bond will be subsidized by an increase in taxes by one cent per $100 valuation of a property. According to a town presentation in March, a resident with a property valued at $350,000 would see an increase of $35 per year.
Skylar Teague, director of outreach for UNC College Republicans, said voters often don’t realize the impact housing referendums have on taxes.
“If they aren’t effectively using these funds, getting more money won’t change that,” he said.
Funds will be used to construct 400 affordable housing units and to maintain 300 existing units, according to the Town.
The Town is prioritizing rental housing serving households with less than 60 percent of the area median income, as well as housing for disabled, elderly and homeless residents. Housing will be constructed near public transportation.
In an interview with The Daily Tar Heel in October, Susan Levy, executive director at Habitat for Humanity in Orange County, said the county has an affordable housing crisis. She said there is a gap of at least 2,000 homes for those who earn less than 80 percent of the area’s median income.
“The rent has gone up astronomically over the past years,” she said. “There’s very little opportunity for someone with modest income to afford housing.”
Supporters of the referendum say the funds will help supplement a loss of federal funding for affordable housing in recent years. Funding for federal housing assistance has declined four percent or more every year since 2011, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“You cannot build affordable housing without subsidy," Robert Dowling, the executive director at Community Home Trust, said in an interview with The Daily Tar Heel in October. “The federal government is not a big supporter of affordable housing. The federal dollars toward affordable housing have been declining."
Marin Wolf and Aidan Bennett contributed reporting.
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