Big Reveal Friday For CH Realtors’ “Fix-A-Home”

This Friday – hurricane or no hurricane! – local residents and businesses will come together to help make one local family’s dream come true.

Each year, the Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS heads up a project called “Fix-A-Home.” They choose one local home every year and provide needed repairs and upgrades for the homeowner – targeting homeowners who are physically or financially unable to make the repairs themselves.

This year’s Fix-A-Home recipient is Jewel Francis, who lives in the Northside neighborhood at 306 Brooks Street, in a home built for her parents 41 years ago. She shares the home with her goddaughter Anita Wilson and Anita’s two children, Lillie-Marie and Elijah – sleeping on the couch so the others can have their own bedrooms.

The project got under way last Thursday. Since then, volunteers have been braving the steady rain and working around the clock to make repairs, install carpet, repaint the walls, and add a new bedroom – for starters. Local businesses have chipped in with supplies, expert assistance, and lodging and food for the family.

Project co-chairs Anne Hoole and Jackie Tanner stopped by WCHL Wednesday and spoke with Aaron Keck.


The big reveal will take place at 3 pm Friday, October 2 – with volunteers, realtors, and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt on hand. Everyone’s welcome to attend.

Gap Is Narrowing, But OC Homes Are Costlier, Older

Affordability is a major issue here in Orange County, especially when it comes to housing. But just how much does local housing actually cost?

“Almost 50 percent higher per square foot than Durham,” says Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce president Aaron Nelson.

The average closing price for a house in Orange County was almost $330,000 in 2014, up slightly from the year before. Nelson says that’s actually not the most expensive in the Triangle: “For the first time, Chatham County’s homes passed Orange County’s homes (by about $4000) in terms of most expensive,” he says. But the average Orange County home is still considerably more expensive than in Durham, where the average closing price was just over $200,000.

And Orange County is still the most expensive per square foot: it cost $149 per square foot to buy an Orange County house in 2014, compared to $126 in Chatham, $111 in Wake, and $101 in Durham.

This difference has long been an issue for local policymakers. Nelson says the gap does appear to be closing: the average home price went up 3.5-4.5 percent in Durham, Wake and Chatham Counties in 2014, but less than 1 percent in Orange – and the cost per square foot actually decreased in Orange County last year.

But there’s another thing to consider: Nelson says Orange County’s housing stock is also quite a bit older.

“The average age of a $300,000 house in Wake County is 2005, (but) the average age of a $300,000 house in Orange County is 1985,” he says. “So you can have a newer house in Wake County for the same price.”

How important is that for potential home buyers? It’s not clear. But Nelson says Orange County did see a drop in the number of homes sold in 2014 – 1,432 in all, still well up from the recession years but about 200 fewer than in 2013.

Nelson made those comments last month, delivering his annual State of the Community report.

You can check out the full report here.

Rental Prices Still On Rise In OC

The affordability issue is a big one in Orange County, and it’s an issue with many facets – one of which is the cost of rental housing. How is the cost of rental housing changing in our community?

“My view (is that) we have a supply-demand problem,” says Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce president Aaron Nelson. “Great schools (and) great quality of life (combined with) limited supply of housing has been a big driver pushing prices up.”

How much is the cost of rental housing going up? According to U.S. Census data, between 2007 and 2009, 70 percent of Orange County renters were paying between $500 and $1000 per month for their units, while about 23 percent were paying more. Nelson says that’s changed.

“Now 23 percent (are) paying between $1000 and $1500 – that’s up – and the percentage of people paying more than $1500 a month is now at 11 percent,” he says. “Taken together, that’s 34 percent of folks paying more than $1000 a month.”

Sixty percent of Orange County renters still pay less than $1000 a month – but that’s down 10 percent from 2009, even though the cost to buy a house in Orange County has remained nearly flat.

But what’s important isn’t so much the dollar amount itself as the ability of residents to afford it. Housing is considered “affordable” if it takes up 30 percent or less of your income before taxes. By that standard, can Orange County residents “afford” the homes they’re renting?

Nelson says some of us can. According to the census data, 42 percent of Orange County residents are paying less than 30 percent of their incomes on rent. But over half of us are paying more – in some cases, much more.

“30 percent of the population of Orange County is spending more than 50 percent of their pre-tax (income),” Nelson says. “In take-home (terms), that’s 60-some odd percent…

“And that’s just the rent part. When we say ’30 percent equals affordable housing,’ we mean rent plus utilities.”

And of course that number only counts those people who still choose to live in Orange County – not those people who choose to live elsewhere, or have chosen to move out.

“And so this is (still) a real challenge we have in our community, the cost of housing,” Nelson concludes.

Nelson made those comments last month, delivering his annual State of the Community report.

You can check out the full report here.

UNC Loans $3M to Preserve Housing in Northside Neighborhood

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt made a big announcement Monday about Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood. He spoke at the Hargraves Community Center to an audience of Northside residents, community leaders and local officials.

“UNC Chapel Hill is the new catalyst by providing a $3 million no-interest loan that will be managed by our friends from the Self Help Credit Union to lead the acquisition of properties in the neighborhood,” said Kleinschmidt.

The 188-acre Northside neighborhood has historically been the largest African American neighborhood in Chapel Hill. Residents have moved out over the last few decades as developers have bought the properties to rent at a higher price than many families can afford. The landlords often rent houses to students.

Self Help will collaborate with community organizations to buy properties and hold them until they’re ready for home ownership or rental housing.

According to a fact sheet from the project partners, in 1980 the U.S. Census found 1,200 black residents living in the neighborhood. In 2010, that number was 690.

That’s a 40 percent reduction in the black population over three decades.

Esphur Foster, a 75-year-old Northside resident, spoke on growing up in the neighborhood. She uses the term Potter’s Field, which is what Northside used to be called. She talked about one of the characters in the neighborhood, Aunt Lee, who “placed her hands on her high and wide hips with a cigarette dangling from her lips.”

“One of the most amazing things was that the ashes never fell from her cigarette as she walked around doing chores and hollering at us,” said Foster. “She said as loud as she could, ‘Go home, go home, your mammy wants you home sometime.’ . . . We scattered like the wind-driven leaves falling from the trees in the fall.”

Four organizations will work in partnership on this program called the Northside Neighborhood Initiative. Self Help Credit Union will work with UNC, the town of Chapel Hill, and the Jackson Center for Saving and Making History, which is a grassroots advocacy organization.

The stated goals of the initiative are:

  • Helping long-term residents who want to stay in Northside remain in their homes
  • Attracting new residents – a balance of working families, seniors and students – from diverse backgrounds
  • Increasing the availability of housing and financing options for neighborhood properties

“Project Connect” Tackles Homelessness

Orange County is seeking volunteers for the eighth annual Project Connect event, coming up next month.

Project Connect is an annual event for Orange County residents who are at risk of homelessness, to connect them with organizations that provide essential services ranging from health care to housing and job resources.

Organizers are looking for volunteers to greet guests, guide them through the event, and help set up and break down at the beginning and the end of the day.

Jamie Rohe of the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck to talk about the event – and the larger issues of housing and homelessness in Orange County.

“Project Connect” will run from 9 am to 3 pm at the Hargraves Community Center on Thursday, October 9. If you’d like to volunteer, visit

Carrboro and Chapel Hill Mayors Hold Joint News Conference on Housing Vouchers

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.

Costs Up, Partnerships Down, But “People Want To Live Here”

Affordability, taxes, housing, solid waste, economic development, and the future of Carolina North and Rogers Road: all longstanding hot-button issues in Orange County, and all requiring strong partnerships between the local municipalities as well as UNC.

Orange County leaders say the time is now to make those partnerships stronger.

“One of our major issues is to renew the strength and vitality of our partnerships with the municipalities,” says Barry Jacobs, chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. “I think we’ve lost touch to some degree.”

At the center of the conversation is the eternal question of affordability: how to manage the cost of living while preserving a desirable community, in a space with little room to grow.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt says that’s often an issue in college towns – and it’s certainly the case in Chapel Hill.

“University towns are very, very highly sought after,” she says. “I try every day to recruit faculty and staff and students…of course they’re concerned about price of living, (but) mostly we hear that people want to live here. So I think we are still on the positive side of this equation: this is a very high-choice place.”

But with that desirability comes a number of challenges – including, perhaps most notably, the cost of housing. Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says those costs are worth it: “I sometimes look around (my house) and think, wow, for this price I could be in a much bigger place in Durham,” he says, “but I’d rather be in Chapel Hill.”

And while higher property values still mean Chapel Hillians are paying more dollars in taxes, Kleinschmidt notes that Chapel Hill’s property tax rate is actually lower than many of our neighboring communities.

Still, the cost of housing is a strain, one that makes it difficult – if not impossible – for many people to live in Chapel Hill. And not only Chapel Hill: Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens says the affordability question is affecting his community as well.

“We’re seeing rising costs (too),” he says. “It’s a little bit less expensive to live here, so we’re finding families move out (of Chapel Hill-Carrboro) and folks wanting to be in Hillsborough – (but) as prices go up, we’re finding a lot of our families are moving to Mebane.”

The housing crunch has driven local leaders to explore creative policies for developing more affordable housing in all of Orange County’s municipalities.

But as Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle points out, housing is not the only factor driving the cost of living.

“We’ve studied extensively the interplay between transportation costs and affordable housing,” she says. “A typical income earner spends anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of their income on transportation – owning a car, taxes, insurance, and so forth.”

That, she says, gives local leaders a strong incentive to develop housing downtown – so residents don’t need vehicles to get to and from work. Kleinschmidt adds that he’s equally proud of Chapel Hill’s fare-free bus system, which also keeps the cost of living down.

Taxes too are a primary concern – and local leaders are quick to point out that they’ve managed to maintain services while avoiding tax increases, even through the long recession. (Lavelle says she expects Carrboro to maintain that streak this year too.) But Barry Jacobs says that, at the end of the day, it’s just as important to preserve the services that make Orange County a desirable place to live.

And the most important of those services, he says, is education.

“We’re proud of public education (and) we’re going to fund it to the best of our ability,” he says. “Going through the recession, and then having a state legislature that’s attacking public education, we have actually raised the per-pupil funding…and in the last 20 years we’ve built 14 schools in this county. And three of them were high schools. Those are expensive suckers…

“And that’s part of what makes this an attractive community. That’s what draws people here. It’s a double-edged sword, to use a cliché.”

But Jacobs adds that the need for education spending must be weighed against the concern for affordability – particularly the fact that many Orange County residents are seniors on fixed incomes.

And so the question returns to partnerships: town, county, and UNC officials working together to promote efficiencies, reduce costs, and improve the standard of living. Local leaders agree that’s already happening (if slowly) on the issue of Rogers Road remediation, and Chapel Hill Mayor Kleinschmidt says he’s confident it will also happen on the issue of solid waste: “I think we’re going to come together with a solution,” he says, “(and in) four, five, six years, we’re going to have a site for a transfer station that we’re all going to use.” (Kleinschmidt says there are several attractive candidates for that site in the northern part of Chapel Hill, including one off Millhouse Road.)

It’s also happening on the question of economic development, where UNC is actively partnering with the towns and county on projects ranging from the LAUNCH entrepreneurial incubator to the redevelopment of 123 West Franklin, the former University Square – though Chancellor Folt says little is happening right now when it comes to Carolina North. (“We’re really not having any active plans there right now,” she says. “It’s really not at the top of the list.”)

In the end, though, while local leaders seem to agree that municipal partnerships have been stronger, there’s also a shared commitment to strengthening them in the months and years to come.

“How we should go forward is together,” says Jacobs.

Folt, Jacobs, Kleinschmidt, Lavelle, and Stevens made those comments during the “Town and Gown” panel of WCHL’s 2014 Community Forum; they were joined on the panel by outgoing UNC student body president Christy Lambden.

Ignorant Of Town Policy, Student Renters Fined, Evicted

CHAPEL HILL – Imagine being fined a thousand dollars or even being evicted from your home for violating a rule you never knew existed.

It’s scary—and according to UNC student body president Christy Lambden, it’s happening right here in Chapel Hill.

“If I was to estimate, I would have said that I’ve had over 50 students come and talk to me with regards to this,” he says. “Not all of them (are) saying that they have been evicted, obviously, but all of them (are) having various stories about the town ordinance.”

The town ordinance in question is one that’s existed for years—banning more than four unrelated individuals from cohabiting in the same residence. Town officials last month said they were stepping up enforcement of that policy, in response to complaints from residents.

The law is designed to address a variety of problems that have arisen from the scarcity of housing in downtown Chapel Hill. With on-campus housing limited, students for years have taken up residence in rental houses in the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods, often grouping as many people into a single unit as possible. That in turn led to complaints about students holding loud parties, parking their cars on lawns, and failing to take care of their trash—and those complaints led Town Council to act.

The ordinance imposes a $100-per-day fine for the first offense, with penalties going up to $500 per day for subsequent violations. Those fines are actually imposed on the owner of the house, but Lambden says those landlords have been passing the fines onto their tenants.

“The stories that I’ve heard have been that landlords have got a $1000 fine for having more than four unrelated people living in a house,” he says, “and they’ve turned around and said to the students living in the house that they’re going to need to front the money to pay for that bill, because they’re the ones benefiting from it.”

And on Thursday, Lambden told the UNC Board of Trustees he’d heard “multiple stories” of students even being evicted altogether.

“We are devoting considerable effort into looking into the current policy, making students aware of their rights as tenants, and ending the predatory habits of landlords that knowingly allow their students to break the ordinance and ultimately pass fines along to them when discovered,” he said at the meeting.

At Town Hall, not everyone is a strong defender of the current ordinance. Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says he’s long believed it’s a “blunt” way of dealing with issues that should be better addressed.

“For me the real issues are parking, trash, noise – (things) that sometimes particularly people who rent for short periods may not be as concerned about,” Kleinschmidt says. “And I think those are the issues. I don’t think the fact that there are more than four people living in a home – (and) particularly any inquiry into their relationship status – is necessarily relevant to whether they’re loud, whether they park their cars all over the front yard, (or) if they bring the trash can back in.”

And Town Council in 2012 did enact a more specific ordinance limiting the number of cars that could park on a lot in Northside and Pine Knolls.

“Nonetheless, that is the ordinance in town,” Kleinschmidt says. “Enforcement is driven largely by complaint. And the student body and landlords have long known about this.”

But while the Town has stepped up its efforts to educate citizens about local housing policies, Lambden says a lot of students—including many who live off campus—have still never heard of this ordinance.

“I don’t think most students do know, which is something that we really need to work on,” he says. “We need to make sure that students do know, if there’s a town ordinance in place, that they need to observe that.”

And Kleinschmidt says much of the responsibility falls on the landlords—who, he says, know full well the ordinance exists.

“The injustice that’s happening here, I think, is that landlords are allowing this to happen,” he says. “I mean, they’re putting people in a position where they’re at risk of losing their home. And I think that’s where the villain is. There isn’t a landlord in town who doesn’t know about this town ordinance – and they may agree with me that it’s inartful and hamfisted and imprecise and not narrowly tailored, but it’s the law nonetheless, and they’ve known about it for quite some time.”

Whether the town will revisit the law in the future remains to be seen. The ordinance is only slightly stricter than the state fire code, which prohibits more than six unrelated people from living in the same residence.

Mayor Kleinschmidt says he might be willing to take a second look at the policy either way—though he says town officials might be better able to respond to students’ concerns if they had a closer relationship with Lambden, as they had with previous student body presidents.

“I wish (Lambden) would actually respond to an invitation that I’ve had out to him for a long time to actually discuss this and other issues he might want to talk about,” Kleinschmidt says. “But we haven’t been successful at establishing (a connection) or having any kind of a meeting.”

In any event, it’s worth noting that the housing situation could actually be worse: while more than 60 percent of UNC students live off campus, 55 percent of UNC’s undergrads actually live on campus—a far cry from many of UNC’s peer institutions, where more than half of undergrads often live off campus as well.

Durham’s Pretty Nice This Time Of Year

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.)

I Am The Affordable Housing Crisis

In case you’ve missed it, Chapel Hill’s got a housing issue.

The supply of affordable rental housing in town is limited. Demand for housing is high in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, which tends to drive up costs; new housing projects have generally been high-rent; and existing affordable units don’t necessarily meet the needs of the people seeking them.

Meanwhile, another twist: developers keep buying up affordable complexes, renovating them into swankier digs, and renting them back out at much higher rates. In Carrboro, Abbey Court got bought out last year; the new owners renamed it Collins Crossing and immediately started making renovations (good) and jacking up rates (bad). Similar situation at Colony Apartments (now The Park) in Chapel Hill, which is slated to be replaced—and now there’s also a proposal on the table to redevelop Timber Hollow Apartments, just off MLK Boulevard. In all three cases, a similar story: new developer comes in, boots out the existing tenants, revamps the place, brings in new tenants and charges them more.

So far, that’s really only affected “affordable” housing, on the lower end of the rent scale.

But is the scale sliding up? Is this about to start affecting mid-range housing too?

I ask because this same thing is about to happen to me. And several hundred other people too, I think.

My roommate and I live in a mid-range apartment complex in Chapel Hill. We’ve been there for two years and love it. We pay $1000 per month, split two ways—not an “affordable” unit, in the technical sense of the term, but definitely on the high end of what we can afford. (This year, at least, about 40 percent of my paycheck goes to rent.)

In October it got bought by a developer. We didn’t think anything of it.

Then yesterday I got news. When I stopped by the front office to renew our lease, the folks there told me the developer is planning major renovations—so no lease renewals, everyone switches to a monthly contract when their lease is up (which for us is December), and sometime after that they’re going to order us to vacate. At that point, they’ll renovate the unit and rent it back out again—for a significantly higher rate, of course. Almost certainly too high for us—even if we wanted to move back after being forced to move out in the first place.

And that’s it. We’ve just been priced out of our own home.

(By the way, there are 248 units in this complex. I can’t say for sure, but I assume they’ll all be affected.)

I don’t want to name names yet. Plans are still in the works, details are still sketchy, and I’m actually not even supposed to know what I know. (I only found out because I stopped by to renew our lease, and at that point they had to tell me.)

But if I was told correctly, then I think this is a new twist in Chapel Hill’s housing issue, or at least one that hasn’t really been publicized: it’s not just the “affordable” apartments that are being revamped into luxury units—it’s the mid-range apartments too.

I’m not terribly upset about it, at least not now that the initial shock has worn off. This is, I suppose, the downside of apartment living: it’s somebody else’s place you’re living in. Within certain limits, they can kick you out and jack up the rates whenever they want. And if we’re being honest, it is an older apartment building. We love it, but I guess you could argue it’s due for a makeover.

But now, for me, the annoying frustrating irritating process of apartment-hunting begins again. And I assume that process will also begin, sometime in the next 12 months or so, for most if not all of the residents in these 200-plus units.

That’s bad enough.

Add to that the existential shock of being told that—through no fault of your own—you’re going to have to leave the place you’ve come to think of as your home.

That’s bad enough too—and it’s an experience that more and more Chapel Hill/Carrboro residents seem to be having these days. I’ve mentioned Abbey Court and Colony Apartments on the rental side; let’s also not forget the longtime residents of the Northside neighborhood who got priced out when the student rental influx pushed up property taxes.

And so I think this is something worth paying attention to. It’s possible this could just turn out to be a one-time thing: an older apartment complex getting a needed renovation, no larger issue involved. But I’m worried that it also could be a signal of something larger happening in Chapel Hill: a growing scarcity of mid-range rental units as well, not just units officially designated as “affordable.”

And if that turns out to be true—if the high-end luxury stuff is all that’s left—

Well. I can’t think about that right now. I have to look for a new apartment.

I visited two complexes today. Both of them are out of our price range.