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Monday October 25th

Orange County plans to improve affordable housing bond

<p>The Community Empowerment Fund Advocacy Choir sings at Souls to the Polls at the Rally Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street on Sunday Oct. 21, 2018. before marching to vote for Chapel Hill's affordable housing bond.</p>
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The Community Empowerment Fund Advocacy Choir sings at Souls to the Polls at the Rally Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street on Sunday Oct. 21, 2018. before marching to vote for Chapel Hill's affordable housing bond.

The Board of Orange County Commissioners reviewed proposed changes to the Affordable Housing Bond program at its meeting on March 19. These changes and their input will be reviewed again in a future meeting.

An Orange County referendum was approved by voters in 2016 for $5 million for the Affordable Housing Bond program. The first half of the bond had been awarded to four projects in June 2017, two of which are still pending.

Sherrill Hampton, director of housing and community development for the county, said it is a “living-breathing” process, and the March 19 meeting was the county’s second phase of proposed changes to the scoring criteria for selecting receivers of the funds.

The proposed criteria evaluates different aspects of the projects like leveraging, which includes funding sources, taxes and type of project, as well as building and community designs.

Staff proposed adding universal design to the project criteria, meaning the building design would be handicapped accessible.

Nonprofit project sponsors would also be awarded. The original criteria awards developers that pay property tax or repay bond funds, which is not applicable to nonprofit developers. Hampton said the proposed revision is trying to ensure equal opportunity in a competitive application process for the bond program.

Hampton is concerned about the lack of private developers.

“You already have many private developers in Orange County, but we want to attract them to affordable housing developments," said Hampton.

Hampton said the department plans to talk with developers that work inside or outside the county to see what their needs are, so the county can work with them on the bond program.

Commissioners Mark Marcoplos and Sally Greene raised the question about investing in transit-accessible projects.

“Nationally, we all pay about 20 percent of our income just in transportation cost, so it’s a critical component of affordable housing,” Greene said. 

Greene also said policymakers should continuously invest in new affordable housing that has access to transit, but Commissioner Mark Dorosin questioned this.

“The fact that some development provides a van doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an on-demand service that people who live there can say, 'take me to the grocery store, take me to the doctor," said Dorosin. 

During the meeting, Hampton proposed interval-monitoring for every five years after developers have completed their projects. 

Hampton said she estimates the developers may have 30 to 45 days to submit their applications in September, and recommendations for funding will be presented to the board in December or January 2020 after the applications are rated and ranked.

Hampton said the bond program is particularly helpful for Orange County.

“Orange County has a very limited supply of affordable housing, so the bond money enables us to do projects that put more units on the ground for lower or moderate-income folks. It helps in so many ways," she said. 

@CrystalYu_

city@dailytarheel.com

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