Chapel Hill Voters To Consider $10M Affordable Housing Bond

Oct 24, 2018

Beauna Clarke lives in Greenfield Place, a rent controlled complex in Chapel Hill. On one of the first crisp fall days of the year, she showed off the two-bedroom apartment.

"Okay, so you enter into the dining area, kitchen area," she said.

She described the amenities while the dishwasher hummed and dryer rumbled. A mountain bike stood beside her couch in the living room.

"And off the living area there is a small balcony patio, for sitting," Clarke said. "And of course I have a green thumb, so I garden out there. This is my lavender."

Clarke has lived in Greenfield Place for about a year, and was one of the first to move in. She came from Raleigh to be closer to her brother.

"It was an interesting situation, my apartment flooded. And then I developed mold in the apartment. And my grandson came for a visit and had an asthma attack, and they did an air quality test on my apartment and found out that I had several different types of mold in the apartment," she said. "So I decided it wasn't a healthy environment for me."

Affordable housing is scarce is the Triangle, so finding a place wasn't easy. Clarke said she is thankful for DHIC, a local nonprofit that builds affordable housing units, including Greenfield Place.

More than half of all Chapel Hill renters are cost-burdened.
Credit Town of Chapel Hill

On the ballot in Chapel Hill this year is an initiative that would offer people like Clarke more options, said Loryn Clark, the executive eirector of Housing and Community for Chapel Hill. She sees how families struggle to find stable housing.

"Chapel Hill is pursuing an affordable housing bond, up to $10 million, that would provide affordable housing throughout the community for rental or homeownership opportunities," said Clark. "With the goal of creating 400 new affordable units, and preserving 300 existing affordable units in the community."

Loryn Clark is the Executive Director of Housing and Community for Chapel Hill.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Advocates say affordable options are scarce in Chapel Hill. Housing is considered affordable if a family pays less than 30 percent of its total monthly income on housing. In Chapel Hill, more than half of all renters don't meet that threshold.

"We feel like it's a crisis in affordable housing right now," said Susan Levy, who works with the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition, and is strongly supporting the bond. "We know that without the financial resources to provide subsidy to make housing affordable, we simply can't create new affordable housing opportunities, or even preserve the ones that already exist."

There's no organized opposition to the bond, but it would add a penny to the property tax. That comes out to an extra $40 per year for the owner of a $400,000 house.

Back and Greenfield Place, Clarke said she would also support the bond.

"As baby boomers get older, we're not looking to live in single family homes, and sometimes it's just one person in your family," she said. "A house is hard to keep up and maintain, so affordable housing is a must."

Greenfield Place in Chapel Hill.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC