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Council wants more information on affordable housing needs

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Between them, Habitat for Humanity and the Community Home Trust have more than 1,000 households on their interest lists for affordable housing.

Despite worries about selling small 1- and 2-bedroom condominiums, East 54 has sold all 23 of its first-phase subsidized units.

"The market is not providing the housing for the full range of people who work in Chapel Hill and would like to be able to live here," said former town planner Roger Waldon, now a consultant who helped develop the town's proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance.

The proposal would take the Town Council's practice of requiring 15-percent affordable housing from developers who request zoning changes for their projects, apply it to all residential developments greater than five units and provide density bonuses for developers who comply.

Single-family subdivisions could have 15 percent more units than allowed under current zoning, and multi-family projects could be 3,400 to 4,400 square feet larger in exchange for each affordable unit. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said those bonuses parallel what developers have been receiving through rezonings. The ordinance codifies that tradition and expands it to more types of developments.

Half of the affordable units would go to households earning under 65 percent of the local median income, and the other half would go to those earning 65 to 80 percent, about $35,000 to $45,000 for a two-person household.

Discussion at a public hearing Monday centered around those limits. Representatives of Habitat, which serves households earning below 60 percent of median, asked whether the town had plans to serve potential buyers in their demographic. Council member Matt Czajkowski asked how the town would serve households earning 80 to 120 percent of median income who still struggle to afford homes in Chapel Hill.

"[Both] are documented, chronic, crisis needs in this community," agreed Councilman Jim Ward.

Kleinschmidt said the ordinance would serve a narrow demographic and the council needs a better understanding of what needs are and are not being met by organizations like Habitat and EmPOWERment, Inc.

"The community needs to see this ordinance in the context of what we do have in place," he said.

The council requested demographic information on the households who apply for housing through the Home Trust and Habitat prior to voting on the ordinance later this year.

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About the blogger

Jesse James DeConto is the government reporter for Chapel Hill and Orange County for The News & Observer and The Chapel Hill News.