On that Daily Tar Heel piece about affordable housing in Chapel Hill…

Our friends at The Daily Tar Heel published a curious little piece about Chapel Hill’s housing debate. The article says Town “is working to secure additional housing” (Yay!) but “some community organizations have cautioned that this new path brings its own social costs.” Hmm…

The “some community organizations” is apparently one: CHALT. If you are unfamiliar with CHALT, consider yourself lucky! But you should know who they are as they have an outsized and negative impact on local governance and development (or lack thereof, we should say).

The article quotes three CHALTers, including Linda Brown, who started opposing a housing development that included dedicated affordable units one month after moving to Chapel Hill. (I spent four months after moving here searching for a good bagel – different strokes I guess!)

Also quoted is CHALT founder Julie McClintock, who once famously said when opposing an apartment complex in which human beings would live “there are better uses for this property such as storage units.” (See email dated 9/22/21 from McClintock to Town Council. Additionally, we recommend reading this previous piece responding to McClintock.)

NOT quoted in the article is anyone from pro-housing organizatoins that advocate for housing people or actually build units:

The article quotes McClintock as saying “CHALT’s goal [is] not to prevent development.” Which is like when we tell ourselves “We will bake cookies tonight and share them with friends and totally not eat all the cookie dough by myself before the oven can even get warm.”

(As Indyweek notes, CHALT is an “anti-development community group” that has “opposed nearly every major development proposal” in Chapel Hill since its inception in 2014/2015.)

So yeah, CHALT is totally NOT anti-development. They simply cannot point to any development they like. They’re totally not anti-housing, they simply cannot point to any multifamily housing they support.

CHALT has a lot of concerns about housing. So many that it’s hard to keep them straight. A bingo game with CHALT reasons to oppose housing would be a lot of fun, but I don’t know that you can get bingo cards that large.

Aside from basically being a love letter to CHALT, the DTH article also has some weird comments about apartments. The author says they “have little connection to their surroundings,” which is somehow both totally unclear and 100% not true.

Most of the new apartments in Chapel Hill are pretty darn connected. They are all in Blue Hill, which is where nearly all our retail is. And transit lines. How on earth are those residents less connected than people in isolated homes who have to drive literally everywhere?

The article also says, per CHALT, that we’ve avoided some of the “challenges faced by nearby cities like Durham and Raleigh.” But no challenges are named. Maybe they are referring to the challenge of having a baller economy? Too many good restaurants? The challenge of being too welcoming to young professionals? Or, in the case of Durham, the challenge of housing low-income workers who work for UNC but can’t afford to live in Chapel Hill because we decided long ago not to grow?

It’s great that we’re having a debate about housing in Chapel Hill, and that the DTH is covering it. But it’s a serious topic worthy of a serious debate. We hope the next DTH piece better reflects the perspectives of serious actors.