Meeting to discuss affordable housing along rail line

07/22/2014 12:00 AM

07/21/2014 6:11 PM

With light-rail transit on the drawing board following approval of a half-cent sales tax in Durham and Chapel Hill, the Durham City/County Planning Department is co-sponsoring a community meeting to encourage development of affordable housing near rail lines.

The meeting, the kick-off of a four-part strategy, is scheduled for Aug. 20, at the Temple Building, 302 West Main St. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m., with the program beginning at 8 a.m.

“Although the planned light-rail system will have tremendous economic, environmental and mobility benefits, the development of rail systems tend to significantly increase housing costs near transit stations,” said Assistant City/County Planning Director Patrick Young, “Our elected officials have wisely chosen to seek ways to preserve and create affordable housing in these areas now.”

Both the City Council and the Board of County Commissioners recently adopted resolutions to pursue policies that result in 15 percent of all housing units within one-half mile of all future light-rail stations to be affordable to households at or below 60 percent of area median income (AMI). In Durham (City and County), a family of three making $32,560 per year is at 60 percent of AMI in 2014.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers housing “affordable” if a household is spending no more than 30 percent of its monthly gross income on rent (or a mortgage) and utilities.

A family of three at 60 percent of AMI has only $814 per month to spend on rent (or a mortgage) and utilities and to stay within the HUD affordability guidelines.

“The private market is unlikely to provide new housing units affordable to working families near transit stations without incentives or assistance from non-profit, charitable or governmental organizations,” said Young. “No one agency or entity can do this on its own – partnerships are critical to success.”

The meeting will include a panel discussion on emerging issues in affordable housing and resources available, with representatives from the non-profit, private and governmental sectors.

Additionally, panelists will evaluate a sample development project financing plan to begin to assess the “gap” between an affordable housing unit and the costs of producing housing units near transit areas.

Finally, City and City/County staff will discuss a four-part strategy to encourage housing affordability near transit, including additional incentives through the development review process, the continued implementation of higher density “design districts” near transit stops, the identification of financing strategies for affordable housing and a detailed needs assessments to be conducted with the City’s HUD Consolidated Plan update.

The meeting is being hosted by the Self Help Credit Union, and also co-sponsored by the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and Community Development Department.

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