CHAPEL HILL- Town Council member Sally Greene says the nation’s most popular method for building affordable rental housing isn’t happening here in Chapel Hill.

“Why is it not happening here in Chapel Hill? Because of the cost of land,” Greene told the council.

She and others want to change that by partnering with a nonprofit that specializes in creating affordable rentals for families and seniors using low-income tax credits.

At Monday’s work session the council heard a presentation from Gregg Warren, president of DHIC. He proposed building 140 apartments on 10 acres of town-owned land on Legion Road next to the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.

If the town donates the land, Warren said that will offset some of the expenses associated with building in Chapel Hill.

Town staffers estimate the land value to be between $2 million and $4 million dollars, but some, including council member Matt Czajkowski weren’t ready to endorse the plan without more detailed analysis.

“We owe it to the citizens,” said Czajkowsi. “It is very clear to me that we need to show them the cost analysis of doing this to the town.”

In order to provide rentals to seniors and families making around $35,000 a year or less, the project also has to win approval from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency to be eligible for the low-income housing tax credits.

Warren said the process requires a strict timeline, noting that the council would have to approve all rezoning by May 2014.

“We are concerned about whether that is a workable schedule,” said Warren.

Currently there is no zone that would accommodate the proposed density, but staffers say the parcel could be rolled into the Ephesus-Fordham focus area, which will incorporate new zoning that would allow the project.

Though the project’s future is uncertain, council member Donna Bell called it an important step to fulfilling a promise to residents of Chapel Hill.

“We are being able to take this really massive tangible step in a direction that we just haven’t been able to do before,” said Bell.

The council has until the end of the month to decide whether or not to sign a letter of intent with DHIC to get the project underway.