Chatham County Board of Commissioners Affordable Housing Update
– From Commissioner Diana Hales
January 2016: Affordable housing is a complex regional issue that has no quick fix in Chatham County. It will not be solved with a single approach that spends tax dollars on one project. The Board of Commissioners had a facilitated retreat in October 2015 to deepen our understanding of this issue, come to agreement on we want to achieve, and consider avenues we could explore. Our view of affordable housing includes: housing for purchase; housing for rent; critical repairs to keep people in their homes; and temporary shelter. There are numerous non-profits and governmental agencies addressing aspects of housing, and, therefore, potential partners.
We have asked Triangle J Council of Governments to form a working group of officials from our towns and County to lead a conversation that will ultimately propose some initiatives with budget implications.
Here is what is already in motion:
- The county will establish a web-based clearinghouse to match numerous non-profit service organizations, including the Chatham Council on Aging, with our citizens (elderly, disabled, veterans) needing critical housing repairs. An MPA student will gather data this spring/summer for this new website venture.
- The BOC voted to provide $10,000 toward a $30,000 collaborative project with United Way and Triangle Community Foundation to address a specific problem in the broad category of affordable housing. This pilot will seek strategies to help us make a collective impact on one aspect of housing.
- Chatham Habitat for Humanity continues to receive $420/per lot at final plat approval from Briar Chapel as a condition of the Compact Communities Ordinance. Over the multi-year course of the Briar Chapel build-out, Chatham Habitat will receive $1.1 million to build affordable housing. In addition, Habitat receives some funding through the County’s annual competitive non-profit grant process; and received $150,000 from the in-lieu payment the County accepted (under Bock-Stewart-Petty regime) that allowed Briar Chapel to eliminate the requirement to offer affordable housing within its development. There are other opportunities still to be explored with Habitat, including a potential agreement for them to have first refusal on properties the County has foreclosed for unpaid taxes. This would add to their land bank for future Habitat housing projects.
- The vacant Henry Siler School (owned by the County) in Siler City will be studied by UNC’s Development Finance Initiative group to create a development plan for the 2-acre project area. The anticipated result is the creation of a public/private partnership to build a mix of market-rate and affordable housing units on this site, and perhaps renovate the school itself for housing.
- The BOC voted to give $13,000 to the Chatham Housing Authority to create a revolving loan fund to guarantee security deposits for up to 20 families at a time who are eligible for Section 8 low-income assistance. This allows a new renter to pay a portion of the security deposit over 6 to 24 months along with their monthly rent, instead of needing to come up with first month rent, security deposit, and utility deposit all at once. This simple idea will help more families get into housing. FYI there are 470 federal Section 8 housing vouchers available to subsidize low-income individuals and families in Chatham County.
The Chatham Housing Authority has organized a new 501c3 non-profit called the Chatham Housing Initiative to become a one-stop to assist homeless people and individuals needing temporary housing by coordinating with service providers in the community. This is a core outreach to the most at risk.
- Rebuilding Together of the Triangle (RTT) has partnered with the County to apply to the state’s NC Housing Finance Agency for $125,000 funding from their Urgent Repair Program, and $170,000 from their Single Family Rehabilitation Program targeted for Chatham. If the application is successful, RTT will manage the project and leverage those funds with County funds, United Way of Chatham, Carolina Meadows, Galloway Ridge and other community partners to increase the number of families served.
- Chatham County Comprehensive Land Use Plan. This two-year effort is now underway with a hired consultant and a steering committee that includes representatives from County advisory committees and community members. Housing is part of the land use mix that will be discussed as the plan moves forward.
- Chatham Park. Although an Affordable Housing element was stipulated in the Chatham Park Master Plan, Section X, it has not been presented to Town of Pittsboro, so we do not know the extent of their commitment.
Other Housing News:
- Bellemont Point Apartments (behind Lowes in Pittsboro) has opened with 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments. Rental assistance is available.
- Joint Orange-Chatham Community Action, Inc. (JOCCA) is applying for $1,311,992 Community Services Block Grant that will serve 360 low-income families in Chatham, Durham, Orange and Randolph counties; housing is one of the components in this program to lift people out of poverty.