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Wealth Disparity In Chapel Hill: A Widening Gap

By Rachel Nash Posted April 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm

CHAPEL HILL – Orange County is one of the wealthiest counties in the state—but when affluence is prevalent in an area, poverty and those affected by it can be pushed aside.
Jamie Rohe is the Homeless Program Coordinator for the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness.

“The housing situation has gotten worse because of the recession, and also because of a lack of funding from the state and federal level. A lot of public housing has been privatized over the years. We’ve hundreds of thousands of public housing over the last several decades,” Rohe said.

Rohe joined other panelists on the Inconvenient Truths discussion for WCHL’s community Forum.

She says there have been enormous cuts in federal funding for affordable housing. Between 1978 and 1983, the Department of Housing and Urban Development experienced a 70 percent drop in their budget.

Orange County commissioner Mark Dorosin the state has a wealth classification system for its counties, made up by three tiers. He says there’s certain funding that counties have access to if it’s a Tier One or Tier Two. Orange County is Tier Three—the wealthiest classification.

“So in some ways if you’re a low-wealth person, you have better access to getting resources if you’re not in a wealthy county. That is the disparities make it harder to access resources,” Dorosin said.

He says periodically, the community is confronted with the wealth disparity. He cited the challenges in provided services and reparations to the Roger Road Community, and Carrboro’s recent history with an anti-lingering ordinance that he says has a discriminatory impact on Latinos.

Dorosin believes Carrboro town leaders missed an opportunity when the housing complex Collins Crossing—which was predominately low-income housing at that time— was for sale. He says it could have been purchased and kept those units as an option for low-income families.

“The challenge is how to have that reality to match the rhetoric,” Dorosin said.

Earlier this year, Governor Pat McCrory and the state legislature voted against the Affordable Care Act expansion of Medicaid. Jill Edens, Pastor of the United Church of Chapel Hill, says this also negatively affected low-income families.

“This is just devastating when we don’t have this funding for health care overall and when the state is rejecting that expansion, as churches and with the IFC and with all our partnerships, we’re looking at an ocean of need,” Edens said.

Other Issues Addressed

Fran DiGiano, President of Clean Jordan Lake, also addressed his concern over the lake which provides water for 250,000 people and possible more in the future.

“Cause we’re all interconnected by way of what we call watersheds and the ones I’m concerned about are the ones that feed into Jordan Lake,”  said DiGiano.

DiGiano says it’ll take time to correct what he calls “a 30-year legacy of trash.” He wants a community-wide effort to clean up the liter and invited volunteers.

Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, President of El Centro Hispano, additionally said she hopes to bridge relationships to help Hispanics integrate into the community.

“It’s telling people, ‘We are here and you need to acknowledge that.’  We made a decision and now we are living here. This is our town, our county and our country,” Rocha-Goldberg said.

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