More housing needed for flood victims

Jul. 12, 2013 @ 02:45 PM

Orange County officials still need about 30 housing units for victims of the recent flooding.

Government officials issued the call for permanent and temporary rental housing for flood victims after 150 families were displaced following a June 30 storm that dumped more than 5 inches of rain on Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Tara Fikes, director of the county’s Department of Housing, Human Rights and Community Development, said Friday that citizens have responded generously to the request for housing.

“This week, we’ve pretty much had someone calling every day,” Fikes said, noting that more than 25 property owners have called to offer available housing since the request was issued July 4.

Some families have returned to their homes and others are living with friends and relatives until flood repairs are made.

Still, Fikes said more housing is needed to accommodate families and individuals who remain displaced by the flooding.

“We’re still trying to work with 30 families now,” Fikes said. “The challenge now is matching families with the right unit size.”

Fikes said one-bedroom units have been particularly tough to find.

Many of the residents in communities such as Camelot Village, which was hit hard by flooding, were displaced from one-bedroom units.

“There are not a lot of available one-bedroom units,” Fikes said. “The people displaced from those need comparable living arrangements.”

Also, the cost of housing in Chapel Hill is fairly steep when compared to surrounding neighborhoods, which is presenting housing officials with the challenge of finding affordable housing for flood victims.

Some of the housing hardest hit - Camelot Village, Booker Creek Apartments and Rocky Brook Mobile Home Park in southern Carrboro - normally provide some of the most affordable in the towns.

And Fikes said some of the residents displaced are on fixed incomes or are disabled and do not have the economic resources to relocate to rental units where rents are higher.

“To try to find comparable housing at the same rate is a challenge,” Fikes said.

To help speed the recovery, the town announced this week that it is waiving certain solid waste and zoning and building permit fees.

Residents with flood damage will not have to pay a collection fee for bulky items such as appliances and furniture.

Because many flood damage repairs require zoning and/or building permits, the town is also waiving those fees for residents with flood damage.  

On Tuesday, an assessment team from the U.S. Small Business Administration came to town to tour areas in Chapel Hill and Carrboro most heavily affected by flooding.
The team will determine whether there have been sufficient losses to request a USSBA Disaster Loan Declaration, offering low-interest loans to qualified applicants.

Officials said it could take anywhere from several days to a couple of weeks before a decision can be made about the declaration.

Meanwhile, the county has announced new operating hours for its Assistance Center at University Mall.

The center will operate Monday-Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. It had operated from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Officials said the center, located at 201 S. Estes Drive inside the mall between Dillard’s and GNC, will remain open as long as needed.