Chapel Hill voters overwhelmingly approved a $10 million bond Tuesday that could help build and preserve more than 700 affordable homes and apartments.
The affordable housing bond had 72 percent — 18,223 — of the votes as of 10:45 p.m. All of Chapel Hill’s 24 voter precincts had reported their results.
The bond was the biggest decision in heavily Democratic Orange County, where most county-level races were decided in May. There were no Republican challengers.
The exception was the Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor race, which pitted three people for two seats. Heather Main and Chris Hogan beat out Morris L. Shambley for the seats with all 44 county precincts reporting.
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Roughly 37 percent of Orange County’s 115,231 voters — 43,253 — cast early ballots in the midterm election.
Paying off the bond could add another penny to the town’s tax rate of 52.80 cents per $100 in property value — another $40 a year for the owner of a home valued at $400,000. The town would repay the debt over 10 to 20 years.
The town spent $6.2 million last year on affordable and public housing. Orange County also funded more affordable housing with a $5 million bond that voters approved in 2016.
But the need for housing remains great, especially for those who earn lower wages, town officials and housing advocates say.
One in five of the town’s 59,000-plus residents and UNC students live below the federal poverty line. Roughly 52 percent of renters and 22 percent of homeowners spend over 30 percent of their income — the amount financial experts recommend — on housing costs.
A family of four earning 80 percent of the area median income — $64,500 a year — cannot afford 75 percent of the available rental and for-sale housing, town staff said.
The median cost to buy a Chapel Hill home is $362,700, and rents average about $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
Meanwhile, the land left for development is scarce, difficult and expensive, and the town’s ability to negotiate with developers for affordable apartments is primarily limited to incentives. State law prohibits rent control, although the town does require 15 percent of for-sale housing developments to be affordable.
One potential bond project is a mixed-income community on 15 acres of town land at 2200 Homestead Road. Apartments and tiny homes of up to 400 square feet could be among the 150 planned housing units.
The money also could help residents threatened by mobile home park redevelopment.
The next step is seeking proposals from affordable housing nonprofits and developers. That leverages those partnerships and town money to get additional grants and housing tax credits, town officials say.
The Town Council would decide which proposals to fund.