Local News

Chapel Hill Leaders Hope Employees Buy Into New Housing Plan

Posted February 21, 2000 6:00 a.m. EST

— The high cost of buying a home in the Triangle prevents many people from doing so. But that could change. Affordable housing is making its way to one of the most expensive real estate markets in the area.

The average price of a home in Chapel Hill is more than $200,000. The average starting salary of a Chapel Hill firefighter is about $25,000. Some Chapel Hill leaders have a plan home to turn a parking lot at the corner of Rosemary and Church Streets into homes that entry-level to mid-level employees can afford.

For two years, Chapel Hill firefighter Anthony Lucas has made the 30 minute daily commute from Mebane.

"Being single, it's hard to afford to live here in Chapel Hill," he says.

Lucas wants to buy a home, but is looking elsewhere.

"[Perhaps] Alamance or Chatham County, or even Durham County. Those areas are more affordable for me at this particular time," he says.

Lucas is not alone. Only 23 percent of the town's work force lives within the Chapel Hill limits. Mayor Rosemary Waldorf hopes to change that.

TheTown of Chapel Hill, theUniversity of Chapel Hill, andUNC Hospitalshave hired a Maryland firm to study the possibility of an employer-employee housing project along West Rosemary Street.

The study will find out if employees are interested in this type of housing, and look at the possibility of bringing in businesses.

The project could also be used in the hiring process.

"By giving, or having this opportunity available, it would lead us to a better situation with recruitment," says Bruce Runberg, UNC associate vice chancellor.

Waldorf believes the discounted housing could be a positive move for everyone.

"I think it's going to make us feel that we've does the right thing," she says. "It might become a model for doing more of this in other parts of the community."

The town, the university and the hospital will share the cost of the $98,000 study. Results should be available in six months.