Strategy to increase affordable housing adopted

Mar. 22, 2014 @ 01:07 PM

A penny on the tax rate could help make more affordable housing available to Chapel Hill residents, according to supporters.
The Town Council heard from some constituents during the first budget hearing on the importance of affordable hosing in Chapel Hill. In December the council approved the selling of town property on Legion Road for the development of low-income housing and most recently approved an affordable rental housing strategy.
“I’ve repeatedly heard that people want affordable housing and diversity,” said Councilman George Cianciolo. “I have to believe that they were willing to invest in it. I think it’s time that we start investing in something citizens have said repeatedly they want to see.”
According to the Business Management Department for the town, a penny tax increase would generate about $730,000 toward affordable rental housing.
The mayor’s committee on affordable rental housing began working a year ago to increase the availability of affordable rental housing and the development applications that include rental housing.
The strategy calls for dedicated staff and the creation of an affordable housing board that will advise staff, the council and developers on a full range of issues related to affordable housing.
Short-term strategies include pursuing a low-income housing tax credit project on town-owned land, establishing a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing via tax dollars, shortening the review process of rental development applications with a 15 percent or more subsidized housing component and having high-level conversations with UNC and UNC Health Care.
Within the next two to five years, the town plans to continue its pursuit and active campaigning for an affordable housing bond for Chapel Hill, seek legislative authority to ban landlord discrimination on the basis of income and partner to buy, rehabilitate and hold older, inexpensive apartment complexes.
Long-term, the town will continue to pursue low-income housing tax credit projects, evaluate existing and establish new revenue sources and explore the feasibility of development of new public housing.
According to Loryn Clark, interim assistant planning director, the strategy will encourage public, private and non-profit partnerships and facilitate the production of affordable rental units for all income levels.
“Affordable rental housing continues as a priority for this community,” said Tish Galu of Orange County Justice United. “This strategy sets the stage to look at development and redevelopment in new and creative ways.”
Galu also suggested that UNC Hospital and the university be included in the discussion and development of affordable housing in Chapel Hill.
“Affordable housing is an issue that we’ve been talking about for a while in Chapel Hill and sometimes we need to actually strengthen our commitment to the issue instead of just talking about it,” said Councilman Lee Storrow.
Storrow suggested that a short-term plan be put in place that allows the town to build up to a town-generated funding stream that would allow the town to help subsidize affordable housing.