Members of the Affordable Housing and Community Connections department presented the Affordable Housing Annual Report for the 2022 Fiscal Year at the Sept. 28 Chapel Hill Town Council meeting.
The report is meant to share the year’s highlights and ongoing goals for the department.
Sarah Viñas, Chapel Hill's director of affordable housing and community connections, said the Town allocated $2.5 million to community partners for improved affordable housing projects.
The Town also provided 492 households with Emergency Housing Assistance: a county-wide program that provides financial assistance for residents in Orange County experiencing a housing crisis.
Viñas said the Town has determined a need for about 500 new housing units per year through an analysis of housing market demand.
She added that access to affordable housing is a key component of meeting that need and that the department is looking to achieve and develop five-year targets established previously by the Town Council.
The Town of Chapel Hill defines housing as affordable if housing costs do not exceed 30 percent of a household’s income. The average rent in Chapel Hill has increased by 59 percent since 2017, with current prices averaging $1,776 per month. This leaves 58 percent of renter households cost-burdened.
Viñas said while this increase impacts everyone in the community, people in moderate and low-income households will be disproportionately affected.
“Housing costs, as we all know, are increasing at an incredible rate,” Viñas said. “Both nationally and regionally, and we’re seeing that trend here in Chapel Hill.”
Triangle MLS, Inc. data found that 87 percent of home sales in the area are unaffordable – more than $220,000 – for households with earnings lower than $75,000, which makes up 80 percent of the area median income.
There were no single-family homes sold in Chapel Hill this year at an affordable price according to their data. Viñas said that this is due to both home sale prices and drastic increases in interest rates.
Nate Broman-Fulks, assistant director of affordable housing and community connections, said the Town has increased its inventory of transitional housing units and the department is working on a comprehensive renovation of a home for more transitional housing.
He said while the Town has seen a decrease in the production of affordable homes in recent years, 123 affordable homes have received development approvals this year.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tempore Karen Stegman said the department has been using funds effectively despite the growth in problems posed by COVID-19.
“Despite all the great work, we’re seeing an increase in housing insecurity and food insecurity and all the long-term impacts of the continuing pandemic,” Stegman said. “We’re seeing the need in the community just grow.”
Broman-Fulks said one of the department’s priorities is to develop a plan to increase the speed at which affordable housing projects are reviewed and approved to limit the overall cost.
“The longer a project takes, the more expensive it can be,” Broman-Fulks said. “And so the faster that we can get these good projects online, the more we can limit the Town’s subsidy needs as well.”
He added that the Town's Affordable Housing and Communities Connections department has been working with the Town to create a Manufactured Homes Action Plan to address the preservation needs and displacement threats posed by the creation of new homes in Orange County.
Broman-Fulks said that other communities throughout the state who have experienced similar issues have used this plan as a model to adopt.
The Town is projected to develop 30 more affordable home units in the 2023 fiscal year. They also plan to create an Affordable Housing Investment Plan in the months ahead.
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