It is unclear how long Baw will continue to wait for public housing. As a senior citizen with disabilities, there are only two public housing communities geared toward Baw — Caldwell/Church Street and South Roberson Street — designed to house elderly and disabled residents. Each year, few, if any, units open in the two accessible communities.
Faith Thompson, interim public housing director for the Town, said only four to six families leave public housing each year in Chapel Hill.
“We have families that have been in our units over 30 years,” she said. “There is a greater need for housing for people with disabilities.”
Thompson said there are 336 occupied public housing apartment units in Chapel Hill. Meanwhile, there are 351 applicants on the waiting list for public housing, including Baw. As demand grows, so does the necessity for renovating the units that already exist.
Eight of the 13 available communities were built before 1980 and face structural problems, such as leakage and mold, Thompson said.
Through RAD, Chapel Hill intends to first redevelop Trinity Court, which was built in 1975 and currently sits vacant.
Thompson said the Town plans to increase the number of units in Trinity Court from 40 to 60, 50 of which would be for public housing and 10 of which could be intended for affordable housing.
RAD allows Public Housing Agencies to attract private money from developers to help with renovations. The developers are then allocated some of the property for their own housing projects.
She cited concerns that some developers renovate public housing properties and build unaffordable “McMansions” on their portion of the property.
“We want a developer who is committed to creating as much affordable housing as possible,” she said.
In terms of affordable housing, Thompson is not only worried about finding a suitable developer. She is also concerned that UNC students will be the ones who lease the affordable housing.
The implementation of RAD comes in the months following Chapel Hill voters' approval of a $10 million affordable housing bond.
While the bond will not go toward the public housing communities, which must be entirely federally funded unless a PHA has incorporated RAD, its goal is to create more affordable housing units for low- and middle-income families in Chapel Hill.
Baw said he hopes the Town will soon offer more opportunities for residents like him who struggle to afford their current residences.
Thompson is positive that the program will create more housing in Chapel Hill, but that progress will not happen overnight.
“It takes time, money and land,” she said.