DHIC Awarded Second Round of Tax Credits for Chapel Hill Affordable Housing Development

DHIC has been awarded tax credits for a second year in a row to develop an affordable housing community in Chapel Hill.

DHIC is a non-profit organization based in the Raleigh area that has worked for over four decades to develop affordable housing communities in the Triangle.

The Town of Chapel Hill has donated nine acres of land on Legion Road for DHIC to develop two affordable housing projects Greenfield Commons and Greenfield Place.

In addition to the donation of the land, the town is providing $450,000 low-cost loan to the Greenfield Commons senior-housing development.

President of DHIC Gregg Warren said the donations provided by Chapel Hill was the most crucial part of making the project happen.

“What really impressed us was our partnership with the Town of Chapel Hill to make this happen. We have been so pleased by the support we have received from both the town council and the town staff,” Warren said.

Warren said despite the normal high-cost of living in Chapel Hill, the town has been easy if not easier to work with than other towns in the Triangle.

“I think it’s no secret that it is difficult to develop in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has very high standards for housing and any kind of development work, there is a vibrant public participation process that can take a while to get approvals,” Warren said.

Warren said the rigorous approval process may be keeping other developers away from the area.

“I think that some developers, maybe even affordable housing developers, choose not to work in Chapel Hill just because it’s what we call a high-barrier to entry market. But, we really felt that it was important, given the town’s commitment, to stand by the town to make this happen,” Warren said.

Greenfield Commons is the second phase of the affordable housing developments in Chapel Hill the only difference being, the age requirement of 55 years or older for the current project.

The development will be located off of Legion road with 69 apartments available. Click the link to learn more about the Greenfield Commons Development.


Applications are Available for Affordable Housing Projects in Chapel Hill

The beginning of July brings a new fiscal year and more funding for affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

Each fiscal year, the Town of Chapel Hill provides $688,000 from the Affordable Housing Development Reserve. With this year being the fourth funding cycle, the Chapel Hill Housing and Community Planner Sarah Viñas said they expect more applications than they have funds.

“We’ve had applications from agencies every cycle and, in fact, the last funding cycle, the amount requested from these agencies exceeded the funds available in the reserve. So there’s tremendous need in the community, even more so than what is available through this funding source,” Viñas said.

The application process for these projects follows certain guidelines based on the priority project areas.

“There are four of them: Land banking and land acquisition, rental subsidy and development, home ownership development and future development planning. The reserve funding is dedicated to funding applications that meet one of those priority project areas,” Viñas said. “The town’s housing advisory board is involved in reviewing applications that are submitted and scoring and evaluating them. It’s a pretty rigorous process that applications go through, and I think that has helped us stay focused and to really fund quality projects.”

There has been a variety of projects that have been approved with the council. Viñas said they expect to have a variety of asking prices on funding these projects.

“There is no minimum or maximum threshold for applications. We’ve had applications for as little as $10,000 to as much as $400,000, so there is a real range. Affordable housing is expensive so we expect some high price-tag project proposals,” Viñas said.

Projects that have been funded in the past have covered home purchase and rental options and have been distributed to large organizations like Habitat for Humanity and local non-profits like EmPowerment Inc.

Applications will be accepted through August 29 at 2 pm. To view specific details on the Affordable Housing Reserve and the application process you can visit the Town of Chapel Hill’s website. If you have any specific details you can email Sarah Viñas at svinas@townofchapelhill.org.


Chapel Hill Approves Affordable Housing Project

Local housing non-profit DHIC Inc. is continuing work with the Town of Chapel Hill to help offset affordable housing needs for working families in the area.

Earlier this month, Chapel Hill town manager Roger Stancil approved the permit for the affordable housing project, Greenfield Place.

The Town of Chapel Hill partnered with DHIC to bring the affordable rental units to the Ephesus-Fordham District on Legion Road next to the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.

The development will include four apartment buildings with 80 rental units on almost six acres of land.

DHIC received low-income tax credits from the NC Housing and Finance Agency to assist with development and construction costs on its first project in Chapel Hill.

Construction of Greenfield Place is expected to begin in September of this year.

A second development plan called Greenfield Commons is being considered but has not yet been submitted to the town.

Greenfield Commons is expected to include 69 senior apartments on three and a half acres next to Greenfield Place.

Both affordable housing projects will include mitigation for storm water, sidewalks and improved streetscape along Legion Road.


‘Affordable Housing’ is Workforce Housing

One of the topics that we’ve heard a lot about recently is affordable housing.  The towns and the county have discussed it a great deal and the media has given it a lot of coverage.

If you ask people exactly what is affordable housing and how it works you’re likely to get a lot of different answers.  It would sure be great if we could bring some clarity to this topic.  Especially, given the time and importance it has.  I’ve always felt that the label of affordable housing isn’t very useful.  Talk to any realtor and they will tell you that every since house in our community is affordable to someone.  So, why do we talk about affordable housing as if its code phrase?

In the Town of Chapel Hill documents, they say affordable housing refers to that housing that is affordable by a section of society whose income is below the median household income.  Housing is considered affordable if a household pays no more than 30 percent of its income for housing costs.  Very low income residents qualify if they earn less than 80 percent of our area median income.

Area median income in Chapel Hill for a family of four is $67,400.

So, we’re talking about hard working people who simply don’t earn enough to live in our community without help.  Many are the backbone of our public and private workforce.  They’re the people who make this the place we love.

So, why don’t we talk about housing for all of our workforce?  Do you have a better alternative to the affordable housing label?  If so, how about sharing it.


— Fred Black


Have a comment or opinion you would like to share? Submit your commentary or column for the Commentators, on WCHL 97.9FM and Chapelboro.com.


Looking at affordable housing in a different way

It’s time for us to revise our approach to affordable housing.  We are fighting against the tide as we seek to provide housing options for low-income people. As land becomes more scarce, it becomes more expensive.  As the economy continues to improve, construction costs escalate.  And perhaps most importantly, we are facing huge demographic changes with both Baby Boomers and Millennials, many of whom want to live in towns and cities.

As a result, I believe it will be increasingly difficult to provide affordable rental and ownership housing for the lower paid people who work in our community.  To maximize our impact, we need a new approach.

Currently and rightfully, each of our local governments has its own strategies and funding for affordable housing.  However, there is little coordination of effort.  I believe we would be more effective if we identified the types of housing that are not being provided by the market and determined how and where we can address those housing needs.

This should be a coordinated effort among all the local governments and the nonprofit organizations.  We are fortunate in our community to have elected boards that are willing to provide resources for affordable housing.  We also have experienced nonprofit organizations that know how to create and preserve affordable homes.  Working together, we can leverage our strengths and assets, thus increasing our collective impact.

Ten years from now will be too late.  Now is the time to shift our thinking about how to address affordable housing in our community.


— Robert Dowling





Commissioners To Hold Public Hearing On Upcoming Bond

The Board of Orange County Commissioners will be taking public comment on the upcoming bond Tuesday night.

It will be the first of two public hearings on the bond which, if passed in November, will be the largest in county history at $125 million.

Up to $120 million dollars is planned to make necessary health and safety upgrades to Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. This would be the first step in acquiring the funding needed to finance over $300 million in repairs.

Another $5 million dollars is expected to go towards affordable housing.

The meeting will begin at seven p.m. at the Southern Human Services Building in Chapel Hill.

A second hearing will be held in Hillsborough May 5 at the Whitted Building, which will also begin at 7:00 p.m.


Orange County Homes Are Pricier – But How Much Pricier? And Why?

If you’re in the market to buy a home, where do you get the most bang for your buck?

In 2015, the average closing price for a home sold in Orange County was $342,172, according to Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce president Aaron Nelson. “This is a new high since (before) the recession,” he says.

2007, right before the housing crisis, was the only year in history that Orange County saw higher home prices – and if current trends continue, the county will break that record in 2016.

Via Slideshare.net/CarolinaChamber.

Via Slideshare.net/CarolinaChamber.


But what are the numbers underneath those numbers? How does the price of housing in Orange County compare with other counties in the area? If there’s a difference, what’s driving the difference? And is that difference growing, or shrinking?

Start with the average cost of a home. $342,000 is a lot to pay for a house – compare that to Durham County, where the average closing price was just over $200,000 in 2015. But Orange County is not number one, not anymore: closing prices are actually higher in Chatham.

“Chatham County peaked above Orange County for the first time last year,” Nelson says, “and (it) remains in that slot.”

In 2015, the average home buyer in Chatham County paid $359,000 for their house, $17,000 more than they did in Orange.

Via Slideshare.net/CarolinaChamber.

Via Slideshare.net/CarolinaChamber.


But that doesn’t necessarily mean Orange County is offering a better value: Nelson says Chatham County houses are more expensive partly because they’re bigger. In terms of the cost of housing per square foot, Orange County is still the priciest: $142 per square foot, versus $138 in Chatham.

And if you want a home in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, you’re going to pay even more. Last year, the average home in Chapel Hill-Carrboro sold for more than $382,000, or $157 per square foot.

(Compare that to $107 per square foot in Durham.)

“Housing in Chapel Hill is 30 percent more per square foot in the district than it is in Durham,” Nelson says. “So that 3,000-square foot home – the same home – costs 30 percent more.”

Via Slideshare.net/CarolinaChamber.

Via Slideshare.net/CarolinaChamber.


So if you’re in the market for a new house, you can get a much better value in Durham – and a slightly better value in Chatham – than you can get in Orange County or Chapel Hill.

But there are signs that this may be changing. In Chatham County, the cost per square foot has gone up dramatically – nearly 10 percent in the last two years. In Durham it’s gone up about 6 percent.

In Orange County, though, exactly the opposite has occurred. “For the first time,” Nelson says, “last year we saw a slight decline.”

For the average home sold in Orange County, the cost per square foot actually dropped by 4.7 percent from 2013 to 2015.

Via Slideshare.net/CarolinaChamber.

Via Slideshare.net/CarolinaChamber.


So the value gap may be narrowing between Orange County and its neighbors.

But is that necessarily good?

“If you’re an affordable housing advocate, you are heartened by this information,” Nelson says, “(but) if you’re worried about the erosion of home value, you are concerned.”

The cost of housing in Chatham County is on the rise partly because it’s bigger – and partly because it’s newer. The same is true for Wake and Durham. The housing stock in Orange County, by contrast, tends to be significantly older – and that may be contributing to the decline in cost per square foot.

And the cost of the home itself is not the only factor when it comes to housing value. Don’t forget about taxes, Nelson says: “A $300,000 house in Orange County has a $150-a-month higher tax bill than the same house in Wake County.”

If you’re looking to get a mortgage, Nelson says that translates into about $28,000. “You can buy a slightly more expensive home in other markets,” he says, “so the taxes do impact our cost of housing.”

All of those numbers, Nelson says, are things that homebuyers do consider when it comes to making the decision to live – or not to live – in Orange County.

Nelson made those comments and delivered those statistics at his annual State of the Community Report, last week at the Friday Center. 

Read the full report here.


Carrboro Alderman Approve Affordable Housing Request

The Carrboro Board of Alderman approved several affordable housing requests on Tuesday night, most notably, a request of $40,000 for the Self Help landbank and $15,000 for a critical-repair program for seniors.

The request from the non-profit organization would help long term residents in the Northside neighborhood with home ownership.

Dan Levine from the Self Help Credit Union said the landbank would buy up houses to then resell to residents. Currently, most homes that go on sale in the Northside neighborhood are sold to rental companies.

“If you look at the transactions in the neighborhood, almost every property is being sold to student rental investors,” said Levine.

The landbank, administered by the Self Help Credit Union, would purchase homes and prioritize reselling or renting them to residents who make 80% of the area median income, which ranges from $37,750 for an individual to $53,900 for a family of four, according to Community Home Trust.

Alderman Jacquelyn Gist was concerned that young professionals might utilize the program, only adding to the gentrification issue that the landbank is attempting to prevent.

“I know that other programs like this have been used by young professionals to buy their first home, instead of mom and dad helping. They meet all the qualifications,” said Gist.

She said many young professionals would qualify as having the appropriate income but with future prospects of higher income, they would not be the population the program is hoping to help.

Levine said with current housing prices, programs like the landbank are the only way low-income residents can continue to live in the community.

“All I’d say for the board to consider is the reality of the housing market in Carrboro is that single family detached homes, which is mostly what Northside is, they are not affordable without huge amounts of subsidies,” said Levine.

Last year, UNC gave a $3 million interest-free loan to the Self Help landbank to support the purchasing of homes on the Chapel Hill side of the Northside neighborhood. The neighborhood spans Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Alderman Bethany Chaney said they hoped to attract some of those funds to the Carrboro section of the neighborhood, but first they would have to show support for the program.

“The only way we are going to preserve properties in Northside is by participating in this initiative and I think this is why we need to go ahead and say we are willing to put $40,000 down to get a couple of properties into that bank,” said Chaney.

Habitat for Humanity has also been working to build and maintain affordable housing in the Northside neighborhood for several years.

The Board of Alderman also approved a request from the non-profit Rebuilding Together of the Triangle to complete $2,500 worth of home renovations for a long time elderly Carrboro resident.


JPMorgan Chase Invests $1 Million In UNC Center

JPMorgan Chase has invested $1.05 million into the UNC Center for Community Capital to help find new ways to make under-resourced communities more economically inclusive.

“This research will help us better understand how strategic community investments can enhance lifetime opportunities for low- and moderate-income families,” said executive director Lucy Gorham.

Working with two nonprofits, the center will create an “opportunity index” to measure the availability of resources such as high quality education, health care, job opportunities and financial services.

After they compile the index, the center will work with community leaders and residents to see what barriers exist and how they can be addressed.

“Too many people in our country still struggle to make ends meet and we need the public and private sectors to work together to help them,” said Mel Martinez, chairman for JPMorgan Chase in the Southeast U.S. “Financially healthy individuals increase the financial stability and resiliency of our communities.”

The center will also partner with three affordable housing providers in New York, Chicago and Cleveland. They will be starting pilot programs to integrate financial services to help families improve their credit score and prepare for new employment.

“We look forward to working with local partners to explore what is working and what is not, always a critical part of innovation,” said Roberto Quercia, who is co-directing the project with Gorham. “Our findings can be disseminated beyond the university and into the real world where they can inform public policy and practice on the ground.”


Two Groups Ask Town To Donate Property

Habitat for Humanity and a private citizen separately petitioned the town Monday night to donate a property on Gomains Ave. to build an affordable housing unit.

“Habitat has been working in the Northside community for a number of years now,” said Habitat executive director Susan Levy. “We’ve also been in the process over the last 18 months of putting together lots that we can start building on in the fall of 2016.”

Levy said the addition of this lot would make eight total and the residents of these homes would pay between 500 and 675 dollars a month.

Habitat has already started taking applications for these homes and have three times as many qualified applicants than they will have homes.

The second petition was put in by Lydia Mason, who is the treasurer at Empowerment, another local affordable housing service.

“I would like, as a private citizen, petition the town to look at a model whereby a private citizen could have the land donated for me to build an affordable home for rental,” Mason said. “Rental space is as demanding as home ownership.”

Rental versus ownership is the major difference between the two petitions. Habitat applicants pay for their home through an affordable 30-year mortgage, while Mason would set up an affordable rental property.

No matter which direction the town goes in, councilwoman Maria Palmer said she wants to see a space where multiple families could live.

“I know we are trying to preserve the character of the community,” she said. “But if we have three times more people that qualify than the possible maximum units we are looking to build, there is a disconnect there.”

The council did not discuss the matter or make any decisions Monday night and are continuing to evaluate their options.