The Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously approved a new funding plan for affordable housing at its meeting on Nov. 16, which included a new project called the PEACH Apartments.
PEACH stands for Pine Knolls EMPOWERment Affordable Community Housing. The apartments were proposed by EMPOWERment, Inc., a community development organization in Chapel Hill.
Delores Bailey, the executive director of EMPOWERment, Inc., said the apartments will have 10 units intentionally designed to be multifamily and multigenerational. She said the bottom levels of the development will also be built to be accessible for tenants with disabilities.
“We've created these units just so that they are exactly what somebody would want to live in,” Bailey said. “We've taken and paid a lot of attention to the details.”
She said the main benefit of the apartments is the opportunity for people earning at or below 30 percent of the Area Median Income to have a place to live.
“What that means is if a person making $7.25 an hour, who is a grocery store bagger or who is a groundskeeper at UNC, they will be able to afford to live in these units,” Bailey said.
The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service is another organization involved with the PEACH Apartments project.
IFC participated in the House Us Now! rally in September, which also included EMPOWERment, Inc. and several other community organizations.
Quinton Harper, the director of Activate! IFC, spoke at the meeting and said the funding from the Chapel Hill Town Council was a big step forward for affordable housing locally.
“What we know is that the market will not build housing for low income, for those with no income — it just won't happen,” Harper said. “The only way that it has happened and the only way that we can provide housing for all folks in our community is if the government, the Chapel Hill Town Council, steps up as they did to provide financial support to build PEACH Apartments.”
He also said he was very appreciative of all the community support the PEACH Apartments and affordable housing overall had at the meeting.
Local activist Danita Mason-Hogans spoke at the meeting and said the council should acknowledge the importance of equity when deciding to fund the project.
She said EMPOWERment, Inc. has cultivated a relationship with marginalized groups who bring knowledge that is essential to the commitment to bring up equity in Chapel Hill.
“I would say that when we're making decisions that impact marginalized people, marginalized people need to be at the table — not only at the table to listen but be in the position to make decisions,” she said during the meeting. “If we have these committees, we need to ask who is at the committee, who is at the table making these decisions, and what kind of power have we invested in these people?”
Crystell Ferguson, the community navigation manager at IFC, said she works as a link between sheltered and unsheltered people in Orange County and other programs in the community that fight for affordable housing.
She said the PEACH Apartments will be an important step for affordable housing in Chapel Hill because there is a shortage of affordable housing currently.
“We have people who are staying here when we've stated over and over they can’t, but there's nowhere else for them to go,” Ferguson said. “They come here and we tell them because we have to follow fire code and we have to have insurance that they can't stay here, so it's like telling someone, 'Hey, go stand out in traffic because there's nowhere for you to go.'”
According to Bailey, the project will break ground sometime in 2023. She said the construction will take about 10 months, and PEACH Apartments will be fully ready in early 2024.
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