Local News

Housing Costs Force Town Employees out of Chapel Hill

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CHAPEL HILL — Housing costs have gone up so much in Chapel Hill that many people who work there cannot afford to live there. City leaders hope to change that.

"On the salary that we make in Chapel Hill we could never afford something that big," says Chapel Hill firefighter Robert Borgesi.

Council members say teachers, police officers and other workers simply cannot afford to live in the city they serve. In fact, of the 56 members of the fire department, only one person owns a home in Chapel Hill.

"You would hope that your firefighters that work in your town would live within the city limits, so in case they're called back they'd be back here sooner," Borgesi says.

Chapel Hill's Mayor and Council members hope to keep more firefighters, and other workers, in town with a new zoning regulation.

The regulation would require developers to build a certain percentage of affordable homes in each subdivision.

Chapel Hill Mayor Rosemary Waldorf believes the regulation would "ensure that any new subdivision, or any new development, include some smaller and lower-priced houses as well as bigger and higher priced houses."

The Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce opposes the proposal.

"The side effect of inclusionary zoning raises the cost of all other houses in that subdivision," says Joel Harper of the Chamber of Commerce.

Chapel Hill leaders need theGeneral Assembly's approval before they can force developers to build more affordable homes. The town council has asked state lawmakers for permission at least twice before, and each time the request was denied.