CHAPEL HILL — UNC-Chapel Hill will spend $210,000 to help protect a historically black community from too many students moving in.
The university announced Thursday that it will seek ways to promote affordable, single-family housing and save the history of the Northside neighborhood, which stretches along West Rosemary Street downtown to Carrboro.
The university will contract with the Center for Community Self-Help, a financing and advocacy organization based in Durham, to develop a five-year plan to evaluate current zoning and building ordinances and find ways to promote public-private affordable housing partnerships and home ownership in the community.
Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings, a not-for-profit corporation founded by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Foundation will fund the plan. The organization is also seeking Town Council approval to redevelop the University Square strip mall on West Franklin Street.
Self-Help staff will also collaborate with residents, the university, the town and the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History, a non-profit dedicated to recording and preserving the history of the neighborhood.
The university has been concerned about Northside for years, UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp said in an interview Thursday.
“The Northside neighborhood is somewhat in danger because there’s a lot of student rentals there, and we worry that the historical nature of the neighborhood will be disrupted,” he said.
Northside has changed from a black, working-class community during the days of segregation to a student rental neighborhood. Students rent about half of the houses in the neighborhood, according to estimates by the university and the Jackson Center.
The town created a special conservation district for Northside with rules banning new duplexes and restricting new construction in the neighborhood in 2004. The Town Council passed additional restrictions on building height, additions to houses and parking earlier this year after a coalition of residents and housing groups said some property owners were finding ways to skirt the rules.
The number of black residents in the Northside neighborhood dropped by hundreds between 1980 and 2010. In 1980, there were 1,159 black residents; in 2010 there were 690, according to census data.
The plan will have three phases: research and analysis, program design and implementation.
The first phase will include a housing market analysis, baseline report and review of zoning and related regulations. Self Help will also research best practices on student rental enforcement, form an advisory group, facilitate collaboration between nonprofit developers and the neighborhood, promote home ownership, and explore community-based land banking.
Preserving the historical character of Northside and promoting more home ownership benefits Chapel Hill and the university, said Gordon Merklein, executive director of real estate development with the university.
“It’s in all of our collective best interests to ideally see the neighborhood stabilized, which in my mind is a good, solid balance between historical ownership that is there and what is the right amount for the future,” he said.
Della Pollock, a professor in the department of communication studies at UNC and the executive director of the Jackson Center, came up with the idea for the study and partnership with Self-Help.
“I see this as really the first time in as long as I’ve been here ... where the town and the university and the community are coming together about a real vision of vitality ...,” she said.