The median home price in Chapel Hill is $345,000. To afford that house, a family with no other debt would need to make $74,000 a year. The Chapel Hill median household income is just short of $60,000.
Rentals in Chapel Hill similarly outpace local incomes. Our average rental is $1,600 a month. Chapel Hill’s stock of affordable rentals is decreasing by the day.
It’s no wonder Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County housing comes at a premium. We live in an amazing area. Our homes are next to greenways, parks, and playgrounds. Our venues host some of the greatest cultural events in the country. Our public schools are among the very best in the world.
But the disparity between housing prices and incomes means Orange County’s resources have become a boon available only to the wealthy. Those who work at our universities, for our utilities, and for our municipalities and schools cannot afford to live here.
The very thing that we value in our community – a wealth of opportunity and privilege – has become its downfall. As our housing becomes more inaccessible to diverse families, we become more homogenous and less vibrant as a community.
This fall voters have the opportunity to reverse the trend. The affordable housing bond will provide $5 million for housing at all levels of need in Orange County.
This bond will add less than $10 to most homeowners’ annual property tax bills. That’s a bargain, considering the benefit it will bring local families.
The funding plan itself ensures diversity. Affordable Housing groups – including CASA, Habitat for Humanity, Community Home Trust, and Empowerment – will grow both the rental and ownership affordable housing stock: 25 percent of the bond money will go to homeless and elderly, 50 percent will go to families making less than 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), and 25 percent will go to families making between 50 percent and 80 percent of AMI.
Right now 78 percent of Chapel Hill households earning less than 30 percent of AMI are severely cost burdened – meaning they pay more than half of their gross monthly income in rent. These are families who will flee our area as soon as they find opportunities elsewhere in places they can afford to live.
And when these families leave, we all suffer. We do not want to raise our children in a town where their friends are all identical to them. We do not want to live in a city where our workers commute daily across county lines so that they never get the opportunity to invest in our community.
The affordable housing bond is a bargain for every taxpayer. Just $10 a year ensures we’ll maintain the diversity that has made our community amazing. Just $10 a year means our hospital workers will stay and volunteer or spend their paychecks locally. Just $10 a year preserves our values, and allows us to share them with all who want to be here.
Please vote yes on the affordable housing bond.
Jennifer Ferris is the board president of the Community Home Trust.