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Durham residents press for affordable housing downtown

Posted September 10, 2015

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— A crowd packed into a Durham City Council work session on Thursday to call for affordable housing downtown.

City staff presented information to the council that recommended developing 2 acres of vacant land that the city owns at Willard and Jackson streets into a mix of commercial and residential space that could tie into a nearby transit station.

Residents said 85 to 100 affordable apartments should be put on the site, and many held up signs expressing frustration with the high cost of living downtown, where rents often top $1,000 a month.

"Our downtown is quickly becoming an affordable housing desert," said Bishop Clarence Laney of Monument of Faith Church, who is co-chairman of Durham CAN, a collection of religious congregations and neighborhood groups that pushes for social change.

Herbert Reynolds Davis of Durham CAN said downtown Durham has no affordable housing units, "and there are zero in the developmental pipeline.

"So, what are we asking for?" Davis said. "Simply for working families to be able to benefit from downtown Durham."

Although city staff voiced support of affordable housing, they said they couldn't guarantee it as part of a mixed-use project. Mayor Bill Bell went further, saying he has strong reservations about the affordable housing idea.

"I'm not interested personally in putting any of the city's money in strictly affordable housing that's packing poor people into one area," Bell said. "Maybe I shouldn't use the word poor – in packing families below the median income."

The Durham Housing Authority already works on affordable housing projects, the mayor said.

Advocates said Bell has the wrong idea of what they mean by affordable, noting many teachers, nurses and police officers can't afford to live downtown.

"(They) have helped make downtown the community that it is now that we all love. How do we house those (people)?" said Dan Levine, director of business development for Self-Help Credit Union.

City staff proposed a five-month timeline to complete the project's bidding process.

5 Comments

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  • Jo Rand Sep 11, 2015
    user avatar

    A few examples of Affordable or TOTALLY totally subsidized housing in the Downtown Durham area:
    Jackson Street/Gerard Street, Jackson Street/Paul Murray Street, East Main, East Main St./Queen, E. Main St./ Dillard, E. Main St/Commerce, E. Main St/Angier and the list goes on. Once more, be careful of the loud propaganda voices of special interest and the liberally naive . Check it out media, it might take a few hours of work but it might show some intelligent pragmatic reporting too.

  • Jo Rand Sep 11, 2015
    user avatar

    A few examples of Affordable or TOTALLY totally subsidized housing in the Downtown Durham area:
    Jackson Street/Gerard Street, Jackson Street/Paul Murray Street, East Main, East Main St./Queen, E. Main St./ Dillard, E. Main St/Commerce, E. Main St/Angier and the list goes on. Once more, be careful of the loud propaganda voices of special interest and the liberally naive . Check it out media, it might take a few hours of work but it might show some intelligent pragmatic reporting too.

  • Norman Lewis Sep 11, 2015
    user avatar

    The Government cannot provide what it does not take from someone else. These people are advocating that the Government take from others to provide them an affordable place to live where they want to live. If we are to be "fair", the government will not allow anyone to reside in a location they cannot afford on their own. No one provides my taxes and insurance to allow me to live in a good neighborhood. I EARN it, not given to me by Uncle Sugar. To carry this argument to the extreme, let the taxpayers give all citizens a $50,000 a year job regardless of their qualifications, pay for their housing and send all their children to a good school. Great idea as long as someone else is paying for it.

  • Steve Thompson Sep 10, 2015
    user avatar

    You should Only be able to live in an area that YOU can AFFORD. I live in a very nice area, I also work on average 52 hours per week in order to do so. The government does help with my mortgage payments why should they with anyone else?

  • Craig Elliott Sep 10, 2015
    user avatar

    So I learned today that "affordable" = "subsidized".

    If we're talking subsidized housing for teachers, nurses and police officers (et al), well, that's not an un-worthy cause, but let's call it what it is.

    As an aside, I've watched gentrification go through Raleigh like a bulldozer. The only "affordable" housing left is run by the city.