Chapel Hill News

Chapel Hill apartment complexes cut rent for public workers

CHAPEL HILL A property management company has cut the rent at two apartment complexes to give public employees an affordable way to live in town.

Chapel Hill-based Eller Capital Partners is reducing the rent for newly renovated apartments at Midtown 501 – formerly Foxcroft Apartments near Erwin Road and U.S. 15-501 – and 86 North – formerly Timberlyne Apartments near Weaver Dairy Road.

The offer, which also waives application and administration fees, is available to thousands of employees who now commute from surrounding counties to work for the town of Chapel Hill, the town of Carrboro, UNC and UNC Health Care, and other state agencies.

It could save them a few thousand dollars a year, said Daniel Eller, president and chief executive officer of Eller Residential, a division of Eller Capital Partners.

The rent would be $645 a month for a one-bedroom apartment at 86 North – reduced from $795 – and $895 a month for two bedrooms – reduced from $1,095. That would be affordable to someone earning between $26,000 and $36,000 a year, based on budgeting guidelines.

A one-bedroom Midtown 501 apartment would be $892 a month – reduced from $1,100 – and two bedrooms would be $1,067 a month – reduced from $1,300. Those prices are affordable to someone earning between $36,000 and $42,000 a year, guidelines show.

Any future rent increases would depend on when the lease ends and the rental market at that time, he said. In most cases, rents go up a few percentage points when leases are renewed.

This is an opportunity to meet middle-of-the-road needs in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Eller said. The towns haven’t added much new, non-student development in the last decade, he said, while conditions at complexes more than 25 years old have declined or aren’t what renters want now.

“It gives us the opportunity to offer some additional incentives to the public employees that make up most of the employment sector in Chapel Hill,” he said. “These are the people that we want to have live in our communities, and they haven’t been able to afford to live where they want to live, historically, in Chapel Hill, so they’ll drive 15 minutes to Durham.”

Chapel Hill police officers have heard about the offer, Chief Chris Blue said, but he doesn’t know if anyone’s looking into it.

“Often, police officers aren’t able to live in the communities they serve, and unfortunately Chapel Hill is no exception,” Blue said. “We are appreciative when members of our community recognize this and provide opportunities for our officers to live and raise their families here – a move that is sure to benefit the Chapel Hill community.”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools employees also welcome the possibility of being able to afford a renovated apartment, Superintendent Tom Forcella said.

Renovations are finished or nearing completion on 248 apartments at Midtown 501 and 144 apartments at 86 North, Eller said. Changes include open floor plans, newly designed kitchens, energy-efficient lights and plumbing, and more recreational amenities. He could not say how many are vacant.

Besides Midtown 501 and 86 North, the company has purchased other aging Chapel Hill complexes in the last 16 months: Timber Hollow Apartments on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which has a town-approved renovation plan and is reserving some apartments for lower-income residents; and Colonial Arms – now 612 Hillsborough – which was acquired this month for $3.6 million and could be renovated.

Renovations and rent increases generated complaints last year from some Midtown 501 residents who said the upgrades disrupted their lives, cut their access to amenities and priced them out.

Some residents left, and others took the company up on an offer to extend their existing leases, Eller said. He could not provide specific numbers, but said many other residents were excited by the changes.

A longtime Section 8 tenant living at 86 North also joined Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt at a July news conference about the scarcity of Section 8 housing. Eller Properties does not accept the federal housing vouchers and did not renew Section 8 tenants’ leases after buying Timberlyne, one of the town’s most affordable complexes.

GSC property management company, which owns several local complexes, also stopped taking the vouchers in 2013, leaving Orange County officials facing a loss of housing for a few hundred residents. Some have found new homes, officials said, but many couldn’t find housing and left the area.

While Eller Capital Partner’s new offer won’t help those renters, Kleinschmidt said the town welcomes any initiative from a private developer.

“We want to reward that creative thinking and hopefully encourage more private developers to fill that need,” he said.