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What's next for Chapel Hill's affordable housing bond?

With the passage of Chapel Hill's new affordable housing bond, the Town is aiming to increase housing options and create a more affordable, welcoming city. However, there’s still a ways to go before the effects of the bond are seen.

“I’m delighted it passed,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger. “It shows community support for community housing and gives us some dollars to do things with.”

Making Chapel Hill "a place for everyone” is part of the Town's 2020 comprehensive plan to improve, including supporting projects on transportation, waste planning and businesses. Adopting and supporting affordable housing is also featured in the Town Council goals for 2016-2018.

According to unofficial election results, the $10 million affordable housing bond was approved by 72 percent of voters. This is the largest amount of money put towards affordable housing in Chapel Hill's history.

The Town Council approved three uses for the funds: acquisition of homes, home repairs and construction on new affordable housing units. 

The funding will come from an estimated tax increase of one penny for each $100 of property value and will be prioritized for several different projects, including housing for households making below 60 percent of the area’s median income, rental housing for vulnerable populations and long-term affordable housing options. 

“The housing is more aimed at families in the community,” Hemminger said. “We’re looking at transitions from our shelters into housing, and we have waitlists of people waiting to get into public housing.”

The first step for the project will begin in January 2019, when the Town Council will discuss a resolution certifying and approving the results of the election. Following that, the council will work with community partners and staff to prioritize projects. 

The city has seven years from the election date — Nov. 6 — to issue the bonds. 

Despite other ongoing projects, Hemminger said she doubts the process will take the entire seven years.

“We have other projects, too, so we have to negotiate how that all works,” she said. “The new municipal services building is the big one, so we have to work out timing.”

Organizations such as the Habitat for Humanity of Orange County have historically worked with Chapel Hill on affordable housing projects and hope to continue this partnership with the new bond.

Susan Levy, executive director of the Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, said she sees a general understanding in Chapel Hill that there is not enough affordable housing, but that subsidies are needed to solve the problem.

“I think the need is really well established, and clearly folks in Chapel Hill who voted understood the need,” she said. “But I think those of us who are involved in creating or providing or supporting affordable housing know that the subsidies have to come from somewhere.”

Levy said federal government funding for affordable housing has decreased in the last decade, and local governments have been forced to take up some of the slack.

“The necessity has been for local government to make up some of that difference but also to go beyond that and provide the funding that’s needed,” she said.

Levy hopes to receive funding from the bond in order to continue work in the Chapel Hill area, benefiting people across the entire financial spectrum.

By definition, affordable housing costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s income and typically goes to households below 80 percent of the area median income. Chapel Hill's median income for a family of four is $64,500. 

While affordable housing is an issue facing many community members in Chapel Hill, Loryn Clark, the housing and community executive director for the Town, said the Town is focusing more on income level than on other factors.

“There’s an interest in creating affordable housing for a variety of members in our community,” she said. “But I think our overall goal is to create housing for many members of the community.”


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