Council takes step toward affordable housing

Nov. 30, 2013 @ 05:14 PM

With a 7-1 vote, the Chapel Hill Town Council last week approved a purchase agreement that will sell town-owned property for $100 for a low-income housing tax credit project.
Councilman Matt Czajkowski was the lone voice of dissent, arguing that the property could be sold to satisfy “multiple other looming financial demands.”
“Paramount among these financial demands is Rogers Road,” he said. “This is exactly what priority budgeting is all about. What I believe is absolutely wrong is to give a piece of land for this project then turn around and ask the citizens of this town to raise taxes for Rogers Road mitigation.
“I would be prepared to vote for this tonight if we knew where the money is coming from for Rogers Road mitigation,” said Czajkowski.
The council approved a Letter of Intent and purchase agreement to give the town-owned property on Legion Road to the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation for the development of low-income housing for $100.
A recent appraisal of the property has it valued at $2 million.
DHIC President Gregg Warren said he believes this is tax credit project will “offer a real positive outcome for the town.”
“This is a good site because it is consistent with the direction of the Ephesus Church and Fordham Road plan, it’s on transit lines, it’s close to shopping and employment and it’s available,” Warren said. “This is an opportunity for town investment.”
Warren said that the current proposal consists of one building for senior citizens and four for workforce housing on 8.5 acres of land. The buildings would be three- and four-story, split-levels with an elevator, he said, with 80 units in the senior building and 90 in the workforce building.
A tentative timeline has the building plans complete and rents and unit mix finalized in January followed by rezoning approval in May and an announcement in August as to whether the town is granted the tax credit for the project.
Ten percent of the units would be set aside for disabled and homeless citizens. The town would absorb the costs of improvements that will need to be made to roadways to accommodate the buildings into existing improvement costs.
Councilman Ed Harrison views Chapel Hill’s involvement in this project as an investment in the town, much like Durham did with the American Tobacco Campus.
“What I believe is this is an investment in the character of Chapel Hill,” Harrison said. “What it gives us is a step forward in affordable housing that we don’t have now.”
Lee Storrow agrees that this “is a really exciting public investment for us to make.”
A memo to Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil states that there may be additional costs associated with the water and sewer connections to the proposed buildings and that a subdivision of the property would need to be done to determine the boundary of the property to be sold.
The memo also states that there is an Orange County impact fee equal to $1,200 per unit, totaling $168,000. The fees would be charged by the county prior to residents moving into the units and would be used to support the capital needs of the public school system.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said that nothing is written in stone and there is much to be discussed further.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” he said. “This vote does not make this project. It just allows it to move forward. We just sold the property to DHI for $100.”