The Orange County Commissioners approved a five-year plan last week that could snare federal money to help provide affordable housing.
The plan (Find it at nando.com/19n) will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this month, said Audrey Spencer-Horsley, the county’s director of Housing and Community Development.
HUD requires communities receiving HOME Program and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to file an updated plan every five years. The county and all three towns approved the plan, which outlines a local strategy for addressing low- and moderate-income family needs.
County staff could return later this year with a study of local barriers to affordable housing.
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The county’s housing situation has become urgent in recent years, officials say, as older apartment complexes were sold and renovated, adding luxury amenities and raising the rent. Many landlords also stopped taking Section 8 and other federal housing vouchers that help the poor, disabled, veterans and the elderly.
The county could receive nearly $312,000 next year from the HOME program for mortgage assistance, housing rehabilitation, construction and purchases, and to help with rent. That’s about 13 percent less than the county got last year and about 43 percent less than in 2010.
CDBG funds that Chapel Hill receives each year also help with affordable housing. The town received roughly $403,000 this year; grant awards for 2016 haven’t been announced.
The county’s greatest need will be housing for older adults, Spencer-Horsley said.
Roughly 12 percent of the county’s population is age 62 and older, and only 1 percent of the 20,234 rental units in Orange County meet the need for affordable senior options, she said.
“As the county’s population ages in place,” she said, “there will be less available elderly units and a higher demand for those units.”
At least 450 new senior units could be needed, she said, plus another 150 new units for people with disabilities. The county also needs money to help renovate affordable housing, she said.
About 1,600 homes could be repaired, Spencer-Horsley said, but the cost is more than those families can pay.
State rehabilitation funding does not help low-income residents who live in manufactured or mobile homes, the Rev. Robert Campbell said.
Those homes are “still under the guidelines of construction, zoning and policies on how a home should be erected,” he said. “(Manufactured home owners) are left out of the loop, and they have to find other ways to repair their AC units, their walls, roofs and stuff like that.”
The county should take a look at the role that manufactured housing can play, said Commissioner Mark Dorosin, who serves on the HOME Program Review Committee. There have been a lot of changes in the quality of those homes since they were disregarded as options, he said.
“If, in fact, this pot of money that we get from the state prohibits providing rehab to manufactured housing, then I would petition that we look at creating our own pot of money locally,” he said.
Dorosin also advised reviewing county properties to see if there’s room for affordable housing. A recent property study is a good place to start, Board of Commissioners Chairman Earl McKee said.
Another possibility is the jointly owned Greene tract off Eubanks Road. Chapel Hill town staff have reported meeting regularly with Carrboro and the county to discuss long-range plans for that land.