CHAPEL HILL – There’s been some controversy surrounding the topic of affordable housing in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area recently.  And some local groups say it’s time to tackle those issues head-on.

Tish Galu is a member of the Orange County Justice United—a group dedicated to making change on social justice issues affecting the lives of low and middle-income residents in Orange County.

“Affordable housing is diminishing rapidly with in the entire county but specifically with in Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” said Galu.

Justice United has been involved in improving affordable housing in the area for the past two years.

According to Galu, the Colony Apartments— now called The Park, and Abbey Court, now called Collins Crossing—have recently changed owners. She says monthly rent rates at those complexes have gone up by about $200.

Galu says those complexes were the primary affordable housing options in the area.  Calls to Brenda Wishart, the rep for Collins Crossing, have not been returned.

“It has really disrupted people’s lives and it will continue to and it’s pushing tenants away from being able to live near where they work” said Galu.

Galu says The Park apartments recently stopped accepting applicants under the federal rent payment assistance program, Section 8 housing. Landlords are required to meet fair housing laws but are not required to participate in the Section 8 program.

Below is an emailed statement to WCHL from Bell Partners, the manging firm for the Park Apartments:
“We are not government owned affordable housing.  Privately-owned multifamily dwellings voluntarily participate in the Federal Government’s Section 8 Housing Program.   Unfortunately, it became financially challenging for the community to continue to participate in the Section 8 housing program.”  

Judith Blau, the director of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Human Rights Center and former UNC sociology professor, has owned two units in Collins Crossing since February 2009. She says she’s watched the unfair treatment of tenants living in the complex.

“They’re pushing poor people out as they are trying to attract students from UNC,” said Blau.

Galu adds that 17,500 students are living off campus; she believes this is another reason affordable housing is scarce. She says this has pushed the price of rentals up and patterned more development towards student housing.
But Galu says the Justice United is working to make this situation better. They are holding a fair housing work-shop this Saturday, April 6, at the Carrboro Century Center.

There will be two sessions—the first runs from 8:45 a.m. till 11:00 a.m and the second is from 11:45 a.m till 2 p.m.

The workshop is for tenants and landlords to understand their rights, and it will be in English and Spanish.