Other folks commenting included Anita Badrock, Operations Manager of the Community Home Trust and Rob Reda, the local director of Habitat for Humanity.
For the last 6 years, I have argued that our Town’s growing reliance on in lieu monies to sustain the affordable housing program was short-changing the community’s desire for more living space â€“ especially family-oriented homes.
I understand the occasional need for in lieu payments but as the Council scrambled to create the missing housing maintenance fund â€“ that need seem to drive some unhealthy compromises made in approving projects like East54. It is far past time that the Council finds a way to fund the affordable housing program in a more consistent and predictable manner.
Tonight’s proposal moves our Town one-step closer to that vision â€“ codifying an emphasis on square footage â€“ today’s housing â€“ over accepting funds that rarely translates into affordable living space. I want to thank the Council tonight for making a substantive shift in policy that squarely prioritizes homes over programs. Thank you.
While tonight’s recommendations represent a distinct change in course, I believe we can improve the proposal to help us meet both the needs of our current community and diversify access further.
First, instead of expressing a preferences express priorities. What’s first, second, third when it comes to the goals the Town is trying to achieve? As far as off-site housing, please make it more acceptable than cash.
Second, while I understand Robert and Delores concerns about moving housing stock, there should be a bias towards providing a different mix of housing â€“ housing for our workforce – housing for folks â€“ like my wife and I â€“ who wanted to get their foot-in-the-door and establish long term roots in the community â€“ housing for folks who already have deep roots in Chapel Hill â€“ many who have served our community for decades â€“ who want to or are being forced to downsize into more modest housing but want to and deserve to stay here.
That means units larger than 1 or 2 bedrooms in the Town Center. That means housing uniquely oriented towards an aging population. You responded to the same call with the Lot #5 project and created a broader mix there….if the Town needs to invest to make that happen, let’s build in a mechanism to do that…
I was encouraged by Council member Ward’s recent call to review current utilization of the affordable units provided by developments like Greenbridge to see if we are meeting the goals our Town has set forth. As he put it â€“ to tell if there’s a bias towards grad students over others.
Third, to create a framework for deciding when off-site housing is preferable and should be prioritized. This framework would give specific guidance to developers for determining when such provision makes sense. I believe we can agree, in retrospect., that Greenbridge’s initial offer to provide housing off-site was probably the superior choice. I understand and fully support diversity efforts but as the character of development in Chapel Hill changes I believe that off-site units represent a choice that can better meet the needs of the wider community in some circumstances.