During Monday’s discussion of the proposed budget for Chapel Hill’s next fiscal year, one topic dominated the conversation – affordable housing.

“If we as a community really want the teachers, the town staff, the public safety officers, the nurses, maybe even the young doctors to be able to live here, we need to do more than we’re doing,” councilman George Cianciolo said.

The draft budget for 2017-2018 includes $2.3 million for 336 public housing units run by the town.

This would be a five percent decrease from the current fiscal year. The decrease is a result of the completion of several one-time projects that don’t need further funding.

The town is also anticipating around a 10 percent decrease in federal funding for these units, according to the draft budget.

“I want to do more for affordable housing,” Cianciolo said. “I’m not sure what the right figure is, but it has to be significantly more than I see in this budget. Very frankly, if there isn’t more for affordable housing, I can’t support this budget and I won’t vote for this budget.”

Council members were in agreement about the need for more affordable housing, but debated how best to provide additional resources.

Councilman Michael Parker urged the town to focus on local partners like Orange County, while Councilwoman Maria Palmer said she thinks the town should focus more on concentrated projects.

“Taxes are going up and up and up and up,” Palmer said. “Some of us are really struggling to pay Chapel Hill taxes, so I think we need to build more compact, affordable housing units in themselves that don’t require as much public money.”

Overall the draft budget totals $106.8 million, a $4.5 million increase from the current fiscal year.

The town will hold a public hearing on the budget May 15, as they prepare to pass the final budget June 12.

A link to the meeting schedule and the draft budget can be found here.