A $3 million, no-interest, 10-year loan fund announced Monday is expected to reinvigorate efforts to preserve affordable homes and a tradition of families and community in the Northside neighborhood.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt announced the new fund, part of the Northside Neighborhood Initiative, to more than 100 local and nonprofit officials and residents.
“UNC-Chapel Hill not only wants to be a part of this initiative; it must be a part of this initiative, because we’re only as strong as the communities that we live with and in and work with are strong,” Folt said. “This is our obligation.”
The longtime blue-collar, African-American neighborhood, north of West Rosemary Street a few blocks from campus, has been transformed over the last 20 years from family-owned homes to increasingly student rentals.
The university has partnered with the town and neighborhood advocates for several years on initiatives meant to preserve the community’s character, help residents stay in their homes and increase the stock of affordable housing available to new families, seniors and students.
The town also put a Neighborhood Conservation District in place in 2004 and approved a 2012 community plan to help meet those goals and reduce traffic, trash and other problems.
It has been a long fight, said Kathy Atwater, a resident and longtime advocate for Northside’s preservation.
“I just know that it’s an opportunity for us to just see our community be what it is intended to be – a community of life, of vitality, of family, of coming together, of just being a community in the city of Chapel Hill,” she said.
Durham-based nonprofit Self-Help will manage the loan fund, with support from the Jackson Center, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Northside. The town will be a partner in managing the program.
The first step is to identifying houses and undeveloped lots with the potential for purchase, renovation and redevelopment, Self Help officials said. The goal is more affordable homes for sale and rent, they said.
The lots would be placed in a “Northside land bank” until they’re sold to homeowners, nonprofit housing providers and developers considered to be “responsive to the neighborhood interests.”
“We have worked to address the issues of this neighborhood for decades, but have only been able to target the symptoms of the problem,” Kleinschmidt said. “Today, we are offering an alternative that empowers the community to define its own future.”
Northside was home to those who kept the town and the university going for many years, said Esphur Foster, who has lived on Cotton Street for 74 years. She recalled stopping by the corner grocery for snacks before school and neighbors who would look out for each other and their children.
Her hope, she said, is for Northside to once again become “a place where young children could experience the closeness, discipline, love and safety that this community and neighborhood provided for us when we were able to laugh, live, love, play and walk” to the university and in the community.
To learn more about the Northside Neighborhood Initiative, or about buying or selling neighborhood property, contact the Jackson Center at 919-960-1670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.