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Carrboro Town Council debates alternative means of increasing affordable housing

Carrboro Housing
A pedestrian walks in front of a house in Carrboro on Thursday, Mar. 24, 2022. The Carrboro Town Council is debating ways to increase affordable housing in the community.

The Carrboro Town Council agreed to keep alternative forms of housing, like accessory dwelling units, in its Carrboro Connects 2022-2042 Comprehensive Plan draft during its meeting Tuesday. 

The 20-year plan was created to serve as a guide for the town’s long-term growth and development. It focuses on economic sustainability, affordable housing, climate action, land use and addressing income inequality.

The current draft, first presented in November, has undergone several revisions after input from residents, organizations and town advisory boards. The Town intends to adopt the plan later this spring. 

One priority includes assisting with the creation of accessory dwelling units — smaller, independent residential buildings that are located on the same lot as a single-family home — as a means of increasing housing affordability and options for residents. One example of this is a garage that has been converted into a living space.

The plan looks to modify Carrboro’s land use ordinance in order to permit new ADU construction and create incentives for ADUs, whether they are separate from the primary residential space or occupy the same area. The Town also plans to partner with designers and architects to create construction guides.

Council member Randee Haven-O’Donnell expressed concern that ADUs would primarily be rented out by students.

“How do we ensure that we’re not creating housing for students but creating housing that is affordable for folks in the community?” they said. “Is there some way that it becomes housing stock that is for our permanent population?”

Mayor Damon Seils said many students also face difficulties finding affordable housing, but Haven-O’Donnell said the plan’s goals should extend beyond students.

“I love that we have a student community — we lived as part of the student community when we first came here, I get it — but I also understand what our objective is,” Haven-O’Donnell said. 

In response, Seils said many of Haven-O’Donnell’s concerns applied to all of the efforts to secure more affordable housing in Carrboro, not just ADUs.

“They are questions that probably can be applied to any of the tools that are included in the plan as strategies for addressing housing availability and affordable housing,” Seils said. 

Planning Director Trish McGuire said that while it was reasonable to ask how to make ADUs more attractive to families and Carrboro residents, greater analysis and work are needed to make this happen.

Council member Danny Nowell added that there was no need to find exact numbers related to ADU affordability, and offering more of these spaces would help to reduce costs for the wider community. 

“It’s reflected throughout this entire plan that a general increase in housing stock is correlated with movement on our goals toward affordability,” Nowell said.

The council ultimately agreed to support the expansion of ADUs in its plan, with a goal of minimizing limitations on ADUs and expand housing opportunities for Carrboro residents. 

These opinions will now be passed to the Town’s staff, who will work to implement them in the final revisions to the Draft Comprehensive Plan.


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