Last week, you might have read a Gizmodo article about how millennials will live in cities unlike anything we've ever seen before. If you haven't read it yet, I highly encourage you to, because, unlike so many articles in the media today, this one does an excellent job of capturing the nuances of why we are seeing certain behavioral patterns among millennials when it comes to where we live.
The critical takeaway from this article is one that has major implications for us in Chapel Hill/Carrboro: Millennials are choosing to live in urban neighborhoods, but not necessarily in urban downtowns.
This behavioral pattern shows that what millennials value is not the big city life itself, but having easy access to amenities like walkability and public transit. For suburbs around the country, this means attracting the next generation of Americans requires urbanizing to provide these kind of amenities.
Local governments across the state and country are struggling to meet basic needs in this era of tax breaks for the wealthy and austerity for the rest of us.
Here in Orange County, we have a variety of pressing needs from overdue school maintenance to the burgeoning senior population to general poverty and housing affordability. In response, the County Commissioners decided to put a bond referendum on the ballot in 2016.
In the discussions leading up to that decision, the needs of the school systems were justifiably a consensus priority since it would be foolish to forego needed maintenance on the school systems’ infrastructure. Yet, while most of the commissioners had also expressed support for other issues - most prominently affordable housing – they surprisingly voted with little public input to dedicate the bond solely to schools.
The issue of affordable housing is receiving more attention than at any time in recent history. We have a huge identified need. We have affordable housing providers who have a proven track record of delivering successful projects. The major missing ingredient is funds.
In its ongoing series on affordable housing, the Town of Chapel Hill hosted Michelle Winters, senior visiting fellow at the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing last Tuesday to talk about the policy tools and best practices for affordable and workforce housing.
Winters began her presentation discussing housing trends nationwide and specifically talked about the recent surge in renter households that is expected to continue into the future. The most important takeaway: Half of all renter households are at least moderately cost burdened, meaning they spend at least 30% of their income on rent. This statistic highlights why housing professionals have broadened their discussion of what affordable means in recent years to include a range, all the way from homelessness to just below market rate. As the town’s executive director for housing and community development, Loryn Clark, put it: housing needs to be affordable for everybody.
Starting next week, I'll be hosting a series of four Town Hall events that each focus on a different issue in our community: downtown Chapel Hill, social and environmental justice, economic development and working together in Orange County.
I want these events to be an opportunity for residents to engage and take an active role in shaping the future of our town. All you need to bring is an open mind and ideas for how we can build a more vibrant, livable community. Here's the schedule:
Issue: Downtown Chapel Hill
When: Wednesday, Feb. 25th at 5:30 p.m.
Where: DSI Comedy, 62 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Click here to see full event details and RSVP for the downtown Chapel Hill Town Hall.
Issue: Social and Environmental Justice
When: Saturday, Feb. 28th at 1 p.m.
Where: Rogers Road Community Center, 101 Edgar Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the makeup of interest groups and other constituencies in Chapel Hill lately, and how it reflects upon the diversity of our community. I focus on Chapel Hill, because, well, that’s the local entity I spend the most time following. But the same questions I ask below should be asked at any level of government, and of any organization we associate ourselves with.
This isn’t a criticism of a specific group. A lot of organizations I’ve been involved with through the years wouldn’t score perfectly on this test. The point isn’t to make anyone feel bad, it’s to ask all of us to do better.
I believe strongly in meritocracy, but meritocracy cannot exist in an ecosystem without diversity. To find the best ideas, you need to start by collecting the most ideas.
Anyway, without further ado, here are ten questions I hope that everyone organizing a political group, civic organization, or public input session asks themselves.
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