Local News

Task force says Chatham needs more affordable housing

Posted February 22, 2009 10:36 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— A report to Chatham County commissioners says that recent development trends have divided the county and priced people out of some areas.

In recent years, the eastern half of the county has seen a housing boom, with development springing up close to areas such as Cary and Chapel Hill. Meanwhile, experts say, the western portion of Chatham hasn't seen that same growth.

Some county officials believe that trend has created a dearth of affordable housing.

"The homes that were being created were for people who were in a higher-income category," Commissioner Carl Thompson said.

Real-estate broker Katy O'Leary said that weekly, she has to tell some customers that they can't afford a home in the eastern part of the county. Home prices there run from $350,000 and up, she said.

O'Leary said the disparity of housing prices has an easy explanation: "The dirt's too expensive."

High lot prices force developers to build higher-end homes, she said.

A property reassessment last year reflected the trend, showing home values were up by an average of 24 percent.

Among other recommendations, the report by the county Affordable Housing Task Force suggests that developers could be required to build less-expensive housing.

We could "actually require developers, maybe, to set aside certain portions of their development as lots for moderate-income homes," Thompson said.

The Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties indicated that it opposes that proposal.

"It's just an issue of legality. We don't believe you can do that in North Carolina," said Frank Thomas, with the HBA-DOC.

That proposal could even create a greater difference in home prices, Thomas said. Developers could build even more expensive homes to compensate for the cost of building some lower-priced houses, he said.

County commissioners said they will give the report further study.