Orange County will use $2.5 million in bond money to help individuals and families move into 52 affordable homes in the next three years.
Four projects that the Orange County Board of Commissioners approved Tuesday comprise the first phase of a $5 million bond voters approved in November. The remaining $2.5 million could be allocated next year, County Manager Bonnie Hammersley said.
While it seems like a lot of money, Commissioner Mark Marcoplos said, the number of projects funded shows how hard it is to meet the county’s need. The $5 million bond is just part of a $13 million plan to use local, state and federal money to house 1,000 families and individuals in the next five years.
The first approved projects include senior townhomes in Hillsborough’s Waterstone neighborhood, as well as apartments and a single-family home in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Most will serve low-income families, veterans, the homeless and people with disabilities.
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Commissioner Renee Price suggested reallocating the bond money to help Empowerment Inc. buy a second single-family home in Chapel Hill. However, the commissioners chose instead to tap $1 million set aside last year for future county housing projects.
Habitat executive director Susan Levy noted that the county’s money represents about a third of the Waterstone project’s $2.6 million cost. Habitat, the town of Hillsborough and the developer also are putting in money, she said.
“I want you to know that Habitat takes the investment of the county’s funds in this project very seriously,” Levy said. “We did our best to be sure that the county’s funds would be highly leveraged.”
She and other speakers said they appreciate the money, but they also noted it’s just a drop in the bucket. Yvette Matthews, of the Community Empowerment Fund, challenged the commissioners to go into the community and meet those in need.
“Come to Community Empowerment Fund, come to IFC, go to the men’s shelter, go to the women’s shelter, sit down and talk to the people that you’re making the decisions for,” Matthews said.
Empowerment has filled its 42 rental units but still has families in need, executive director Delores Bailey said, including families participating in the county’s Family Success Alliance program for student success.
“As you know, many of those families are living in unsafe conditions, sleeping on relatives’ couches or sleeping in their cars,” she said. “Several of these families are paying over 50 percent of their income to live in Orange County.”
Commissioners Chairman Mark Dorosin acknowledged the frustration.
“I wish we had a $10 million bond,” he said, “but I also think we need to understand – and we need to help the community understand – that we made a commitment to try to provide housing for the hardest-to-house members of our community, and that’s going to cost more at any time, but it’s going to cost even more now, because for a long time, all the good efforts we made on affordable housing had not been” targeted to lower incomes.
The commissioners will review the results of the bond allotment this fall and could adjust the housing criteria before choosing the next projects. Hammersley said the board also could talk about a manufactured housing strategy and get affordable housing proposals for 10 county-owned sites this year.
Manufactured housing could help bring some affordable housing money to rural areas, Commissioner Barry Jacobs said. He also suggested talking with the towns about helping to pay for projects in their jurisdictions.
The first $2.5 million in bond funding and additional county money will help:
Habitat for Humanity
▪ $915,334 to help build 24 for-sale senior townhomes in Hillsborough’s Waterstone development off Old N.C. 86
▪ Half will serve seniors earning 30 percent to 50 percent of the area median income (a person earning $15,400 to $25,700 a year)
▪ Habitat, Hillsborough and Waterstone’s developer also will invest in the $2.6 million project
▪ $1,373,366 to build 28 new apartments on Merritt Mill Road in Carrboro and Chapel Hill
▪ Merritt Mill East and Merritt Mill West will serve those earning less than 50 percent of AMI
▪ People who are homeless and with disabilities will be priorities
▪ $211,300 will buy and rehabilitate a three-bedroom house at 116 Cole St.
▪ Another $264,400 in county funds will help buy a house at 606 Bynum St.
▪ Empowerment rents to families earning up to 60 percent of AMI ($43,980 a year for a family of four)
▪ Over 60 percent of tenants receive federal Section 8 housing vouchers
The Orange County commissioners approved spending $466,407 in local and federal HOME money next year. The money includes $48,265 from the federal government, $39,782 in program income, and a $78,360 local match from the county and towns.
The plan includes:
▪ $250,000 for deferred payment, zero-interest second mortgages for 10 Habitat for Humanity homes, serving lower-income families
▪ $82,000 to help Empowerment Inc. add a single-family home to its affordable rental stock
▪ $33,680 to help Rebuilding Together of the Triangle provide homeowners with critical repairs, accessibility improvements and energy-efficiency upgrades
▪ $65,900 for housing rehabilitation through the Orange County Housing, Human Rights and Community Development Department