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Friday September 24th

Town of Chapel Hill hopes to begin issuing affordable housing bond this fall

<p>(From left) Yvete Mathews, 61, of Chapel Hill, and Tai Huynh, a junior computer science major, rally at a demonstration organized by Community Empowerment Fund calling for affordable housing accommodations for people at or below 30% AMI on Rosemary Street on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019.&nbsp;</p>
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(From left) Yvete Mathews, 61, of Chapel Hill, and Tai Huynh, a junior computer science major, rally at a demonstration organized by Community Empowerment Fund calling for affordable housing accommodations for people at or below 30% AMI on Rosemary Street on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. 

Chapel Hill hopes to begin issuing funds sometime this fall from the $10 million affordable housing bond voters approved in 2018, said Amy Oland, Chapel Hill’s business management director.

“It’s a lot of work that goes into the process of issuing debt, and so we’re just trying to connect the dots,” Oland said.

Back in 2018, Chapel Hill voters approved the $10 million bond, which the Town hopes to use to develop 400 new affordable housing units, maintain 300 others and finance their regional partners’ affordable housing projects. To pay for the bond, the Town levied an additional one-cent property tax per every $100 of property value, which Oland said they’ve already incorporated into this year's budget.

Now, Oland said the next step is to present their bond proposal to the Local Government Commission, a body within the state treasurer's office that oversees municipality finances.

Before local governments can issue any debt, Oland said the commission must first approve it — and they won’t do that unless local governments present them with clear plans detailing how they will spend the money. 

“They want to make sure that we’re able to pay for the debt,” she said. 

Among other things, she said the Town has to line up cost estimates for Town projects, as well as projects from local housing providers who may seek funding assistance from the Town.

Oland said that’s what they’re working on right now.

“We have the money in the queue,” she said. “As soon as we are able to get the projects lined up, then we are ready to issue the debt and to be able to make the payments for the debt.”

The one-cent tax increase provides the Town the ability to pay back the $10 million bond over the next 20 years, she said.

“This one cent didn’t get us $10 million,” she said. “It’s the one cent over 20 years that gets us the ability to issue this debt and pay the principal and interest payments.”

She said the Town also hopes to issue the bonds in rounds — one this fall and another in 2022.

Loryn Clark, the Town's executive director of housing and community, said the Town has identified two projects that will likely use the bond funds.

The first is the 2200 Homestead Road development, a 14-acre parcel of Town-owned land on which the Town hopes to develop mixed-income housing with several other housing providers. Clark said the Town also hopes to redevelop some of its public housing, particularly Trinity Court. 

“We don’t have the specific amounts that we’re thinking of using the bond funds for at this point,” she said. “But that’s something we’ll be working on in the next few months as well to really refine that proposal to present to the council.”

Clark also said the Town plans to solicit project funding requests in early March from local affordable housing providers — like Habitat for Humanity of Orange County and EmPOWERment, Inc. 

Habitat for Humanity of Orange County will be applying for bond funds to help finance a development project called Weavers Grove, said Jennifer Player, the president and chief executive officer.

Weavers Grove, located off Sunrise Road, is a piece of land that Habitat bought more than 10 years ago. Right now, Player said they’re working with the Town to get their conditional zoning application approved, which the Town Council is scheduled to vote on in early May.

“The vision of this community is that it would be a cohesive, diverse, mixed-income community,” Player said.

Habitat plans to build 99 affordable townhomes and duplexes while selling off lots to builders to construct market-rate condos and single-family homes, she said, adding that the total development — excluding the lots for sale — will cost about $25 million. 

Delores Bailey is executive director of EmPOWERment, Inc., a local housing provider that builds affordable renting units for low-income families. 

She said EmPOWERment is looking at building an apartment building with eight to 10 rental units for low-income families.

“That’s not a whole lot,” Bailey said. “But that is eight to 10 families who are going to be affected positively.”

She said she hopes a good portion of the bond money will go toward affordable housing providers seeking to build in Chapel Hill, but she doesn't think $10 million in bond funds is enough.

“But $10 million is what we got,” she said. “So, we’ve got to figure it out.”

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