Affordable Housing: Report of the Carrboro Planning Board and upcoming discussions

The Town of Carrboro Planning Board held a series of three Affordable Housing Dialogues in October 2012 to educate and engage the public in planning for affordable housing. A report of their findings is now available. The chair of the Carrboro Planning Board will be presenting on this report and the Carrboro Board of Alderfolks will be discussing it at their meeting tonight (Tuesday, February 19th).

The recommendations of the report are:

1. Make the Affordable Housing Task Force a standing committee of the Board of Aldermen, and expand it to include other public and private stakeholders, such as advisory boards, affordable housing developers, and advocates.

2. In that comprehensive policy, consider a staggered approach to income targeting and goals, such that people along the income continuum of very low (less than 50% of median income), to low (50% - 80%) to moderate income (80% - 115%) can benefit in some way from Carrboro’s policy efforts and investments.

3. Include transportation costs associated with housing location in the Town’s consideration of “affordable housing” definitions and calculations. Consider the location and frequency of bus service, as well as walking and bicycling network distances to non-residential destinations when estimating household-level transportation costs.

4. Modify parking requirements in the Land Use Ordinance for in-town apartment and condominium housing, especially in areas where public transportation is readily available. This would result in greater density, would unbundle parking costs from housing costs, and would encourage more creative transportation and parking solutions in development design.

5. Facilitate greater density in new ways. Look at re-zoning infill projects to allow for multifamily housing, connected housing, and zero lot line housing. Consider revising current limitations on or conditions for secondary units, particularly near downtown.

6. Question long-standing policies and our tolerance for the unintended effects of those policies. For example, consider how the current 40% open space requirement and the recreation space requirement impact housing affordability, environmental issues, tax rates, and monthly maintenance costs for homeowners.

7. Review all vacant or non-revenue-generating publicly- and privately-owned land, including parking lots, and identify tracts available for affordable housing or commercial uses that support affordable living.

8. Develop a master land use plan that clearly displays overlay districts and roadway network connectivity. Such a plan will help developers better understand development and redevelopment priorities and opportunities in Carrboro. If zoning follows the plan, it is reasonable and rational and will hold up in court in the event of a legal challenge.

9. Research effective rental registry models, including the program in Athens, Ohio, and determine the efficacy of a similar program here to protect renters and neighborhoods from further deterioration of housing stock. (It is unclear whether state statutes allow rental registries, but there may be similar ways to achieve the same objectives.)

10. Collaborate with affordable housing providers, Orange County government, the university, and others to establish a public-private housing trust fund as a permanent source of matching funds for new construction, rehabilitation, or refinancing of affordable rental and homeownership units. Direct all new payments in lieu to this housing trust fund.

11. Support local and statewide advocacy efforts that will preserve or expand the resources and tools available to affordable housing developers, managers, and residents. Examples include:

  • financially supporting the creation of an Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition or similar organizing effort;
  • joining and participating in the education and advocacy programs of the NC Housing Coalition;
  • reviewing and commenting on proposed state and federal policy or regulatory changes affecting affordable housing, public transportation, utility rates, and living wages;
  • providing letters of support for local applicants to state and federal funding programs.

12. Increase opportunities for the Town’s advisory boards to engage with each other, town staff, and the Board of Aldermen around planning, economic development, and transportation issues that are better approached collaboratively rather than in silos.

I expect that Carrboro will continue to move forward with plans to develop creative solutions to increase the availability of affordable housing through their Affordable Housing Task Force.The Board of Alderfolks will continue their affordable housing dicsussions on March 12th.

In addition, the Chapel Hill Town Council is also taking on this issue. The discussions related to the ultimate approval of the plans to redevelop 123 West Franklin/University Square recently have reinvigorated talk about how to fund affordable housing.

The Chapel Hill Town Council will be holding a work session on affordable housing on March 6th.


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