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'This is just a first step': PEACH apartments to provide multifamily affordable housing

peach location.png
Photo courtesy of EmPOWERment, Inc. A satellite image shows the location where the PEACH apartments will be located.

In 2005, EmPOWERment, Inc., a local affordable housing nonprofit, owned 12 rental units. Now the organization owns 65 rental units — and has become one of the largest nonprofit landlords in Orange County.

EmPOWERment is currently building a multi-family apartment complex of 10 rental units for families earning 30 percent or less of the area median income (AMI). This development called the PEACH apartments — Pine Knolls, EmPOWERment, Affordable, Community, Housing — will be built in Pine Knolls, a historically Black neighborhood in Chapel Hill.

Delores Bailey, the executive director of EmPOWERment, said families that need housing the most in Orange County are those that live at 30 percent AMI and below. Chapel Hill's household AMI is $77,037, meaning those that will live in the PEACH apartments would be earning less than $23,111.

“This housing is for people who work and happen to only make a certain amount of money,” she said. “They’re not making $15, $20, $30, $40 an hour. They’re still making $7.50 an hour.”

Yvette Mathews, an office and community organizer for the Community Empowerment Fund, said she has been spreading the word about PEACH apartments. She said she is concerned about gentrification arising in Chapel Hill.

“I think that Delores and her building, PEACH, is one of the options that we have now,” Mathews said. “At least we have someone now who is supportive of this population, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

She said some community members earning a fixed income, no income or a low income do not have phones or computers, so she connects with them through the CEF to share affordable housing opportunities. She also said many people earning fixed and low incomes work 2-3 jobs, and live in cars, tent communities and cardboard boxes.

“I think it’s only fair that people recognize that this is just a first step, that there have to be more steps,” Mathews said. “And I think that PEACH would be the leader of that.”

Bailey said building for families that earn 30 percent AMI is expensive and the goal of PEACH apartments is not to charge market rate to renters, but to charge something more reasonable.

Still, PEACH apartments is a zero-debt financed project, according to its website.

“The creativeness and the uniqueness of the PEACH is that we had to raise the money so that we wouldn’t have to put any of that burden on rents,” Bailey said.

Sarah Viñas, the director of the affordable housing and community connections department for the Town of Chapel Hill, said many affordable housing projects have to take on debt in order to make them feasible.

“They’ve done a great job funding from a variety of sources,” she said. “They're going to be serving the lowest income members of our community through housing, which is really fantastic."

Viñas said that, though there are affordable housing options in Chapel Hill, housing is one of the greatest challenges facing the town. Chapel Hill needs more than 5,000 affordable homes to fill its affordable housing gap, according to the most recent Chapel Hill Affordable Housing quarterly report.

Mathews said most of the people she has been in contact with about PEACH apartments have been appreciative that Bailey would consider creating this type of project. 

Bailey said there will be 10 families positively affected by the PEACH apartments, which will be located near two bus lines, as well as schools and shopping areas. 

“It is ideally located and I just believe in my heart that this is going to bless a lot of families, just being there,” she said.

Bailey said that PEACH apartments plans to break ground in September or October and she is anticipating that some community members will be in a brand new home by the winter holidays.


@DTHCityState | 

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Lucy Marques

Lucy Marques is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She was previously a city & state senior writer. Lucy is a junior pursuing a double major in political science and Hispanic literatures and cultures.

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