Local News

Durham city leader using part of her own property to erect affordable housing

Posted December 9, 2019 8:01 p.m. EST

— For one of Durham's city leaders, the move to provide affordable housing is taking root right in her own back yard.

Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson is building a duplex on her own property that will be offered with rent that lower-income families can afford.

It's a lofty notion: See a big-picture need in your community and fill it with an in-fill housing project right next door.

"I got this lot kind of by chance when I brought this house," she said.

Johnson bought the 1935 house on Arnette Street more than a decade ago, when the cost per-square-foot was under $100.

These days, she said a lot in the area would bring more than $200.

She plans on building a duplex that includes three-bedroom, two-bath apartments that she plans to lease to people who might otherwise be priced out of the neighborhood.

"Who the exact tenants will be, I don't know yet," she said, suggesting they could be ideal for teachers or city and county government workers.

Johnson, 38, is a mother of two and said she is borrowing money to create the additional housing.

She said she plans to set her rental rate so that someone earning 80 percent of the area's median income could pay for it.

"We don't want to be a city where the folks who take care of our kids and cook our food, clean our streets and pick up our trash can't afford to live in the same neighborhood as the people they're working for," Johnson said.

Just around the block from Johnson's property, an apartment building is set to be torn down to make way for new duplexes.

Johnson said private commercial builders will rise up, see the big-picture need in Durham and help fill it.

"I'm just happy to be in a position to do it," she said.

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