By Aaron Keck

Durham’s Pretty Nice This Time Of Year

By Aaron Keck Posted November 25, 2013 at 4:05 am

If you read my last post, you know my roommate and I just learned we’re about to be priced out of our apartment. I’ve spent the entire weekend searching across town—and into Durham—for a new one...

Some thoughts on apartment-hunting.

Looking for a new place is a crazy and stressful experience, especially when you’re on a bit of a time crunch. It’s an entirely new level of special fun, though, when you’ve spent the last four years obsessively following the local news, and you know everything about every inch and cranny of your town. So many extra variables!

“How close do I really want to live to Ephesus Church, when I know it’s probably going to be all torn up and construction-y for the next couple years?”

“Hey, this place looks nice, but wasn’t there a string of break-ins there a few months back?”

“Isn’t that one in the middle of a flood plain?”

“Hey Sales Office Guy, you mentioned Timber Hollow as one of your competitors? Yeah, let me tell you all about why that’s not going to be true for much longer.”

“I’ve heard of this one before, but why? …Oh, that’s right. The murder.”

I also find I’m more attuned to non-verbal cues—you know, the little tricks apartments use to say the things they’re not allowed to say. My favorite was the one where the model apartment was done up like a glorified dorm room, complete with UNC pillows on the beds and a “schedule of classes” posted on the bathroom door. At no point did the sales guy ever say “we’re more of a student housing deal”—I don’t think he even uttered the word “student” the whole time—but they made it pretty clear, all the same. (I suppose the complex that kept its model-apartment fridge stocked with free sodas and candy bars might have been trying to give off the same vibe.)

But perhaps the big lesson I took from my search is that I’m even more convinced in my suspicions about Chapel Hill housing than I was before. We already know there’s a shortage of low-cost housing in Chapel Hill—but we need to add, if we haven’t already, that there’s also a growing shortage of mid-range housing too.

Now, I did limit my search to a fairly narrow geographic area—roughly, up and down Weaver Dairy and along 15/501 from Garrett Road to Estes Drive. (Stayed away from downtown because it’s mostly student housing; stayed away from Carrboro because we’d like to avoid the extra commute.) But in that area, it became apparent very quickly that the only decent places in our price range were going to be in Durham.

So we may be moving to Durham. Sad, but true. It’s not a done deal yet, but we may very soon be joining that class of folks who’ve got all the town leaders wringing their hands: “People Who Live Outside Orange County And Commute In.”

chamber commuting

At least I’d be in the plurality. (Slide from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 annual report. Full report here.)

I actually like Durham a lot. I lived there for two years when I moved to the area in 2008. Within a year, of course, I’d fallen in with WCHL, so I’ve always felt more connected to the movings and shakings of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. But there’s always been a soft spot in my heart for the Bull City. Minor league baseball! Southpoint! DPAC! (And man, there is nothing I find more fun than bringing a naïve Chapel Hillian or Raleighite to downtown Durham and watching them get all antsy and jittery because they’re just convinced they’re going to get mugged.)

So I’m not too terribly upset about the prospects of living there. (And it’d still be a short commute.)

Still, though, if it comes to pass, it’ll be sad to leave Chapel Hill—even if the only difference is that I won’t be voting there anymore or paying Orange-level taxes on my car.

No worries. Durham will be perfectly fine, should it come to that. And who knows. We might be back in the Hill within a year. It may not even happen at all.

In the meantime, though, y’all really do need to ramp up that housing conversation. (Hopefully I’m already preaching to the choir.)

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