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Orange County, North Carolina Tackling Housing Affordabi...

Orange County, North Carolina Tackling Housing Affordability Challenges

Affordable housing was a hot topic in the November 2015 election cycle, with many elected officials addressing the challenge. As a result, Chapel Hill’s three newly elected town council members will be asked to uphold their promises to focus on providing solutions to the affordability challenge, as many residents are feeling the pinch of housing

Townhouse development, Chapel Hill, Orange County, North Carolina, United States

Affordable housing was a hot topic in the November 2015 election cycle, with many elected officials addressing the challenge. As a result, Chapel Hill’s three newly elected town council members will be asked to uphold their promises to focus on providing solutions to the affordability challenge, as many residents are feeling the pinch of housing costs in Chapel Hill and elsewhere in Orange County.

Towns and cities across North Carolina are experiencing similar scenarios to Orange County when it comes to housing. A recent report looked at what cities and states have the most cost-burdened renters, and found that 50.8 percent of all North Carolina renters pay more than 30 percent of the monthly income towards housing. In Orange County, more than 28 percent of renters and seven percent of homeowners pay 50 percent or more of their annual income on housing costs. Affordable housing is currently defined as rent or mortgage and utilities payments costing not more than 30 percent of a household’s annual income.

Great schools and high quality of life influence the demand of housing in the area. More and more people are choosing housing developments that offer a wide range of amenities, subsequently driving up the price of existing housing. Oftentimes, cost-burdened residents are then forced to leave the county, relocating to neighboring Durham or Chatham County.

Single-family home for sale, Chapel Hill, Orange County, North Carolina, United States

Orange County took steps to alleviate the affordable housing shortage in October 2015, issuing the largest bond in county history—a $125 million bond with $120 million going towards repairing county school buildings and $5 million going towards affordable housing. If voters agree, the bond money could help support housing programs, providing incentives that will help increase the housing stock for residents who are getting pushed out. Other solutions include mixed-income apartments, land bank models allowing for future building projects, and development of innovative design options for manufactured housing or tiny homes.

Municipalities elsewhere in the state are also working to develop broader, long term housing strategies. In Hertford, Dare, and Holyoke counties, the North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union launched initiatives that offer housing below the market rate for teachers. Similar services are offered by Chapel Hill’s Community Home Trust, which provides affordable homeownership opportunities for low and moderate-income households, including teachers.

What are some other tools that cities can use to leverage affordable housing development? Are there any cities that have done an exceptional job in ensuring that affordability remain a top priority? Is your city facing a housing affordability crisis? In what ways is it being combatted? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.

Credits: Images by Rachel Eberhard. Data linked to sources.

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Rachel is currently pursuing a Master’s in City & Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a concentration in housing and community development. Her professional interests include real estate development and affor...

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