Local News

Chapel Hill looks to make housing more affordable

Posted April 11, 2011 5:04 p.m. EDT
Updated April 11, 2011 7:55 p.m. EDT

— Town officials looking to expand affordable housing options in Chapel Hill are meeting with different segments of the community to establish some goals and priorities.

According to a residential market study completed in December, Chapel Hill has the most expensive housing in the Triangle, with a median home sale price of $323,300 last year. By comparison, the median price was $270,000 in Cary, $185,000 in Raleigh and $164,000 in Durham.

Loryn Clark, neighborhood and community services manager for Chapel Hill, said the limited amount of undeveloped land in the town and the lengthy approvals process for new developments are two reasons homes and apartments are pricier in Chapel Hill.

"It's really hard for people who do not have either double incomes or who earn under $100,000 a year to find something in Chapel Hill," said Coaina Nell.

Nell moved to Chapel Hill 23 years ago and fell in love with the town, but she sold her house after a divorce and could never find another house where she could move.

"I spent two months of going to probably 40 places in Chapel Hill, looking for something I could find, looking for something I could afford,” she said.

So, Nell moved to Hillsborough, and she still commutes 30 minutes each way to her job as business manager for a medical program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She said she recently started looking again for a way to move back to Chapel Hill.

"Everything that I could afford is either really old and falling apart in Chapel Hill or is more than $300,000," she said.

Chapel Hill has tried to deal with housing costs before. One response was to require developers to set aside 15 percent of new projects for lower-priced homes.

Clark said officials are now trying to reach out to various groups to find new ideas to address the issue. Officials have met with local teachers, public safety personnel and people who work at UNC and UNC Hospitals, she said.

"Rather than just talk to the agencies themselves, we are actually talking to the people who are looking for housing to hear from them what their needs are,” she said.

Some people have suggested changing the income requirements for Community Home Trust, which administers the 15 percent set-asides in developments.

A community-wide meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. April 20 at Chapel Hill Town Hall.