There's $120,000 worth of millionaire Political Action Committee money coming into Chapel Hill politics, Triangle Blog Blog first reported. And if you ask me, they absolutely do not want you voting in the election.
Some local millionaires are gearing up to spend four times what outgoing mayor Pam Hemminger spent in her last election. This election is fundamentally about housing and whether Chapel Hill is an affordable, vibrant and diverse college town — or a wealthy exclave for retired millionaires.
Chapel Hill, like the rest of the Triangle, is in the midst of a housing shortage and rent crisis. According to data obtained from Apartment List, the average monthly price of a one-bedroom rental in Chapel Hill increased by 40 percent over the past five years, from $850 in February 2017 to $1,200 in January 2023.
The impacts of this are severe for many. For example, UNC’s minimum stipend for Ph.D. students is just $20,000 for a nine-month period. This means if they want to actually live in Chapel Hill, they would have less than $3,000 left for other expenses. UNC housekeepers who make under $17 an hour are similarly locked out of living in the community.
Housing impacts everything, and according to 2021's Projected Housing Needs study, Chapel Hill needs to build 485 new units a year to keep up with the current growth rate.
From 2010 to 2019, the Town built an average of 357 per year. As a start, Town staff presented a proposal to change the Town's zoning code to allow building up to quadplexes on single-family lots. This was ultimately changed to just allowing duplexes.
Town staff received negative feedback on this, from what was frankly a sham engagement survey. Any community engagement survey that ignores the nearly 20,000 undergraduate students that make up the lifeblood of the Town, is not one that should be taken seriously.
Mayoral candidate and Town Council member Adam Searing was one of three who voted against the Housing Choices amendment which passed in June. A week prior, Searing announced he was running for Mayor.
Searing claimed his opposition to the housing choice amendment was out of a concern for the amendment's ability to generate affordable housing, and he said that the people impacted wouldn't be those living in “fancy neighborhoods” or the “historic district."