Tonight, the Chapel Hill Town Council received a report from the developers of what once was the Colony Apartments and will now be called The Park at Chapel Hill (a mixed use development). Colony Apartments was one of the only locations of affordable rentals in Chapel Hill, but with this redevelopment that is no longer likely to be the case. With the redevelopment of Glen Lennox in Chapel Hill and the recent purchase of the majority of the units at Abbey Court (now to be called Collins Crossing), affordable rentals may become extinct in Southern Orange County.
This is an issue that Orange County Justice United has been focused on and Tish Galu, Strategy Team Chair for Justice United, made the following statement at the council meeting:
Before you tonight are plans for the development of Colony Apartments – now known as The Park. With this development and plans for Glen Lennox proceeding – the term “affordable” rentals will not apply to anywhere in Chapel Hill.
Justice United members met with tenants of Colony apartments when the new owners took over and the tenants were being pressured to sign new contracts because they were told there may not be a place for them if they did not renew quickly – of course their rent went up over $200/month when they did sign. New procedures were put in place for applying for apartments which you could call, at best questionable practices –The Mayor, his office and your staff were helpful in halting some of this activity but not the increase in the cost of the apartments. Many left because of the pressure, because of the new procedures and many left in the middle ofthe school year which affected families, and many left because they could not pay the new rates.
During 2010 and 2011, JU worked withyour staff to identify affordable housing needs and you adopted an affordable housing strategy which you are working on implementing. All involved could see from the data we had that Colony and Glen Lennox were two of very few places left that could fall into “affordable” rental housing. Justice United members understand as well as the committee that worked on this – that CH cannot provide all affordable housing solutions.
Maybe it is time to make the University and the hospital accountable by paying a living wage for their hourly employees as you and Carrboro and the county have attempted to do? Maybe the private sector employers need to pay a living wage as well. Maybe the university needs to provide more housing for students – as we saw that students are taking over many of the previously affordable rentals in the town. Maybe there needs to be workforce housing – more public housing? Maybe developers of rental units can use a model similar to the Home Trust for affordable home rentals? Maybe we need incentives for developers to build affordable rental units?
Maybe we need all of the above....but in the meantime, affordable rental units are becoming non-existent. Chapel Hill is changing and how these areas are developed will make a difference in the entire landscape of Chapel Hill.
We need to continue to find solutions together so that those who work in Chapel Hill for the town, the university, the hospital and private sector alike, can chose to live in Chapel Hill –otherwise our residents will not be the diverse population that has made Chapel Hill avery special place to live, work and worship.
Thank you for listening.