There was a time not long ago when stressed-out parents, to take the edge off, abused benzodiazepines. 

Then, someone launched NextDoor. 

Early evidence suggests that mother’s little helpers were less harmful to society than NextDoor, a platform that says to the worst people in your neighborhood – the busy body, the power-hungry HOA president, the racist – “Hey, you need a wider audience to speak to!” 

Other than checking in for pics of missing kittens or dead copperheads, we at the Blog Blog try to avoid the cesspool. Still, it’s important to keep an eye on NextDoor, as it’s a place where information about local government, and often misinformation,  is shared. 

Recently, in a thread on NextDoor, a leader of CHALT revealed findings from their “investigation” into vacancy rates of local apartments. They determined from their “analysis” that:

  • There are “at least 1,800 empty units”
  • Some UNC students live in the apartments (In a college town? no way!)
  • Fat cat developers love vacant units cause they make mad cash off losing money 

The only problem with this analysis – wait, there are many, many problems with it – the main problem with the analysis is that it’s not accurate. That is if you actually believe people who study and measure vacancy over a crank investigation by a group with a long and harmful history of opposing nearly all new housing in Chapel Hill. (If you are wondering what their M.O. might be, we suggest you search the always exciting Town Council inbox for emails arguing that new apartments shouldn’t be approved because recently built apartments are vacant). 

Some facts

According to the most recent data available from PolicyMap (Q2 2021), the ENTIRE town of Chapel Hill had 294 vacant units. Total. To be clear, 294 vacant units is far far less than 1,800 vacant units. 

In the same time period, in the block group that includes the Berkshire (the mother of all hated apartment buildings), there were ten vacant units. TEN. (Note that this is in the midst of a global pandemic that drove up vacancy rates in some U.S. cities.)

I’m off to NextDoor to respectfully debate the person who spread the misinformation about vacancy. Just as soon as these 4 Valium kick in.

Stephen Whitlow lives in Chapel Hill. Trained as an urban planner at DCRP, he works for a research, evaluation, and technical assistance firm and focuses on the areas of housing affordability, fair housing,...