Local advocacy groups held an affordable housing rally in Chapel Hill on Saturday to raise awareness about the scale of homelessness in the area and the need for more affordable housing.
Community Empowerment Fund of Chapel Hill, Inter-Faith Council for Social Service of Carrboro and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP all worked with Meeting of the Minds, an advocacy group associated with CEF, to organize the event.
The March for Affordable Housing stemmed from the Meeting of the Minds, said UNC student Megan Murphy, a CEF advocate. The group focuses on the lived experiences of those at or below 30 percent area median income (AMI), and works with the local government to address the need for more affordable housing.
The effort was spearheaded by two community leaders — Yvette Mathews, an office and community organizer for the CEF, and Quinton Harper, an IFC manager and a member of the Carrboro Affordable Housing Advisory Commission.
Roughly 200 people attended Saturday’s rally, Harper said.
Murphy described the economic restraints placed on the unhoused community, highlighting the housing disparity in Chapel Hill. She said local housing prices don't match the AMI of people in the area.
“The majority of the people who come into the CEF office, or need help from IFC, are making 30 percent or below the average median income,” Murphy said.
The 2018 Orange County Affordable Housing Summit Report states that while 40 percent of Orange County households are eligible for income-based affordable housing, only 3 percent of the total housing units are deemed permanently affordable.
Many attendees at the event had experienced varying degrees of homelessness or financial adversity. Yvette Mathews, known as "Miss Yvette" within the community, uses her lived experiences to help others.
“I’m one of those (financially disadvantaged) people," Mathews said. "I’m a married woman, but if I were not married, working for a nonprofit, I wouldn’t be able to live here either."
The affordable housing rally also focused on encouraging action beyond the event, such as signing Meeting of the Mind’s Coalition and Advocacy Petition for policy change.
Harper said over 100 people signed the petition after the rally.
One of the first points the policy advocates for, Harper said, is ensuring that local government land and funds are allocated for housing those who are at the 30 percent and below threshold for average median income.
Another point the petition emphasizes is ensuring funding is used to keep those who are experiencing homelessness or face a risk of homelessness safe, stable and housed.
In 2020, North Carolina residents experienced over 87,000 evictions. While 2020 eviction rates were lower than they were in 2019, this primarily was due to the statewide suspension on evictions because of the pandemic.
While Harper said strides were made at Saturday's affordable housing rally, he stressed the importance of upcoming events sponsored by CEF and IFC to continue building momentum for policy change.
"These are ways after the march that folks can get involved and help us win affordable housing for 30 percent AMI and below,” Harper said.
On Sept. 2 and Sept. 28, advocacy events will take place to push for the approval of three units in Carrboro to be used as housing for those transitioning out of homelessness.
“We will not rest until we see a change in Chapel Hill," Mathews said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the individuals that came up with the idea to organize an affordable housing rally in Chapel Hill. The event was spearheaded by Yvette Mathews, an office and community organizer for the CEF, and Quinton Harper, an IFC manager and a member of the Carrboro Affordable Housing Advisory Commission. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
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