An undated map of downtown Chapel Hill and the majority of UNC
An undated map of downtown Chapel Hill and the majority of UNC campus.

We are publishing statements made during the May 24, 2023 public hearing on the Town’s housing choices proposal. In some cases, these statements may not exactly match the comments made during the meeting. This statement is from Laura Wells from Hope NC.

Budget comments

Mayor Hemminger and Council Members,

My name is Laura Wells and I am speaking tonight on behalf of the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition, which as you know is an association of non-profit housing developers, service providers, advocacy groups, and local government partners working together to provide housing opportunities for all in Orange County.

In hearing the budget discussions last week and tonight, two things are clear:

1) There are a lot of complex needs in this community and

2) as a council you have a strong commitment to making Chapel Hill a place that everyone can live and thrive.

We as a coalition want to thank you for that commitment.  We also want to thank you for the proposed section of this budget that includes one penny on the tax rate towards affordable housing development.  The Coalition also strongly urges you to consider increasing the amount dedicated to affordable housing to two cents on the property tax rate.  As you know from your own recent Housing Market Assessment, Chapel Hill is experiencing significant housing affordability challenges.  The amount of affordable housing needed is way greater than the number of affordable housing units currently in the pipeline to be built by 2027. In addition, the cost of building those units is steadily increasing.  Housing shortages that are already bad will increase significantly in the next 4 years.  The people who fare the worst in this scenario are people of color and people who are already marginalized.

We must do better—otherwise Chapel Hill becomes like an exclusive, gated community where only the wealthy can live.  Please consider dedicating 2 cents of the tax rate towards affordable housing in this 5 year budget.  This will go a long way to putting a dent in the great need for affordable housing for everyone but especially for those who are already marginalized.

LUMO comments

I urge you to vote yes on the LUMO text amendment.  As I mentioned earlier, I am very concerned that Chapel Hill is becoming a place where only the rich can live. I find it disturbing that most of my daughter’s teachers at Chapel Hill High School have to commute long distances from outside of the town because they can’t afford to live here.

I don’t understand the fear of allowing duplexes in our neighborhoods.  I hear people talking about living next to students and renters as if that is somehow a bad thing.  And yet, didn’t we all start out as students once and many of us that are now homeowners started out as renters.

Gentle density helps create the kinds of connected communities that make sense.  It increases the number of people who can live near walkable amenities and public transportation which reduces the need for cards.  As someone who has a disability and who advocates in my work for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I see daily the great need for this kind of increased density and connectivity to enable everyone who lives here to enjoy the town and not be isolated.

I personally feel that the diversity in housing that this text amendment would provide will create more diversity in the people who can live here and I am in favor of it.  I hope that you will pass this amendment.

Thank you for your time and your service.