The Mayors of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are holding a joint news conference Tuesday to highlight the problems of low-income residents whose Housing Choice Vouchers are being rejected by local landlords.
“The existence of the housing choice vouchers is important to so many families here in our community,” said Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “We are known far and wide as a community where it’s difficult, often, to find affordable housing.”
Housing Choice Vouchers are funded through the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Carrboro and Chapel Hill, they are administered by Orange County government.
Eligible renters are required to pay the difference between the rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
Last summer, leaders of the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro began hearing that some prominent local landlords, including General Services Corporation, had stopped accepting Housing Choice Vouchers.
In Carrboro, GSC owns Estes Park, Royal Park, Carolina Apartments, Ridgewood and University Lake.
In Chapel Hill, the corporation owns PineGate, Booker Creek, Franklin Woods, and Kingswood.
According to the press release from the Town of Chapel Hill announcing today’s news conference, the refusal of some landlords to accept the vouchers displaced about 60 families.
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle told WCHL that while there was an initial outcry over that, there hasn’t been much public discussion since.
She said that now is the time to bring the issue, again, to the forefront.
“Over the course of the last year, as the folks who use these vouchers – as their leases have run up, they’ve encountered difficulty in trying to find other apartments or rental agencies that will accept housing vouchers,” said Lavelle.
She added that the conference is also part of a brainstorming process that gets the community involved in thinking through the problem.
“Several housing organizations have been meeting to try to help these residents,” said Lavelle, “as well as the Town of Chapel Hill and Town of Carrboro. We’ve been working on it as well.”
Lavelle said she hopes that other landlords in the community will respond positively.
She added that current and previous voucher users will be at the news conference, as well as some realtors that accept housing vouchers, and are happy to share their experiences.
Carrboro’s mayor said that while there are some administrative hassles for landlords that accept vouchers, those are outweighed by the advantages of honoring them.
“Often, these renters are long-term residents,” said Lavelle. “So, once you are able to establish a home, and once one of these residents is in their home, they very often become a very good tenant, and stay on for many years.”
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen discussed the situation at the last meeting in June. They agreed to allocate money from a housing trust fund to help eligible tenants pay down their deposits.
Lavelle said that Orange County is also looking at ways to streamline the process on the front end, and make it easier on landlords.
WCHL reached out to General Services Corporation’s Durham office for comment, and was referred to the corporate office in Richmond, Virginia. A message was left, and GSC had not returned the call as of Monday afternoon.
The press conference with Mayors Kleinschmidt and Lavelle will be held at 10 a.m. at Carrboro Town Commons, next to Town Hall at 301 West Main Street.