Commisioners Respond to INDY Week

The following Letter to the Editor was sent to INDY Week on Oct. 21st.

Dear Indy Editors:

Your editorial board chose to not endorse the Affordable Housing Bond because you claim Orange County lacks a plan for how the bond funds will be invested to create new affordable housing units.  This is not the case.

We agree with your statement, “The lack of affordable housing in Chapel Hill and Carrboro—across the Triangle, really—is a mounting problem that needs to be reckoned with. Solutions are not easy to come by. They require tough decisions by town and county leaders, developers, and other stakeholders.”

The Orange County Board of County Commissioners has committed to making those tough decisions. Here’s how we’re going to do it.

In concert with local municipalities, our board will use the bond proceeds to create up to 1,000 affordable housing units throughout the county for rental and ownership. The Board will issue a request for proposal (RFP) to solicit proposals from affordable housing providers and developers to create new affordable housing options.  The RFP process is transparent and fair and is widely used to objectively evaluate proposals from competing providers.  The proposals will be scored by professional staff and recommended to the Board of County Commissioners for final award.

This process was used to award the 2001 bond proceeds that funded more than 200 new affordable units. So it should be noted the county has responsibly and effectively administered bond funds in the past. It’s also consistent with the application and evaluation process used by the Town of Chapel Hill to fund projects with its Affordable Housing Development Reserve. 

While the entire Affordable Housing Strategic Plan has not received final approval, the portion of it that deals with the bond funds is nearing completion.  On November 1, the Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the final scoring matrix that will be used in the RFP process to evaluate proposals.  The Board will also formally adopt unit targets that have been under discussion for several months.

The Affordable Housing Strategic Plan offers a broad, long-term approach to affordable housing in the county.  It includes more than 30 recommendations, ranging from how land-use policies may need to be modified to advance affordable housing development to the use of county-owned land for affordable housing purposes, to how different housing agencies relate to and work with one another.  Due to its comprehensive and long-range nature, the Plan will be approved and implemented in stages.   

Our plan is a holistic approach to provide safe, affordable, service-enriched housing for families, seniors, and people with special needs. We plan to reduce the gap between the need for affordable housing and the supply of affordable homes while placing significant emphasis on programs and services that improve the health of our communities.

—Board of Orange County Commissioners

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