Carrboro rejects eminent domain suggestion

CorrespondentApril 24, 2013 

A protester carries a sign past a Collins Crossing employee who has just finished serving Domino's pizza to children at the Carrboro apartment complex Friday, April 12, 2013. About 65 people marched down Jones Ferry Road and into the complex to protest rent increases they say are driving out working-class Latino, black and Burmese residents. The sign in front of the building says "Rent = Theft." The homeowners association recently levied a $3,500 assessment per unit to make long needed repairs but management says rents have only increased $25 per month on existing tenants' renewals. .

MARK SCHULTZ — mschultz@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Three weeks after Alderman Sammy Slade proposed the Carrboro Board of Aldermen discuss eminent domain, board members showed little interest in the idea.

The idea of using eminent domain to purchase the Collins Crossing apartments, formerly Abbey Court, has surfaced in the town’s email correspondence over the past several months.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Alderwoman Jacquie Gist strongly objected to the town’s using eminent domain, which empowers local governments to obtain private property for public use.

Gist said the cost of purchasing and managing affordable housing is unrealistic for Carrboro.

“You have to think of whose pocket the funds are coming from and who it is benefiting,” she said.

On April 12, local activists and some Collins Crossing residents held the third protest in the past six months against rent increases at the condominiums.

Two bedroom units now start at $740 per month, according to the complex website. That’s about $200 more than some tenants say they’ve been paying, but management says rent will increase only $25 a month for existing tenants who renew their contracts.

In response to complaints from residents and concern about declining affordable housing options in town, the aldermen asked town staff about the legality and cost of acquiring Collins Crossing by eminent domain.

Gist expressed concern about the town’s ability to manage affordable housing without a specific town department or authority, such as the Department of Housing in Chapel Hill, which handles affordable rental housing in Chapel Hill.

Mayor Mark Chilton agreed that eminent domain may not be a realistic possibility.

“It is a lot of work and it is a big responsibility, and it comes with a lot of risks,” he said.

Chilton proposed the town look into the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which gives private investors an incentive to invest in affordable rental housing.

Developers earn federal housing tax credits to build qualified projects, and they then sell these credits to investors who fund their projects, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

The units can be rented at below-market rate since investors reduce the developer’s debt and offset the cost of the investment.

Chilton said the town has few options to eliminate the problems facing Collins Crossing, but can look at ways to prevent these problems from happening at other complexes.

Mansur: 630-915-7633

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