Candidate Questionnaire Responses 2023
In August 2023, we distributed a questionnaire to all candidates running for elected office in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Below, you'll find a list of all candidates and the positions they are seeking along with answers to the questionnaire from those who responded. You can access candidates' responses in three ways:
by clicking on a candidate's name to download a pdf of all of that individual's answers,
by clicking on a specific question to read all candidates' answers to that question, and
by comparing candidates' answers to the yes/no questions in the graphics.
Candidate name and position sought:
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: Chapel Hill Town Council
Jess Anderson: Chapel Hill Mayor
Renuka Soll: Chapel Hill Town Council
Barbara Foushee: Carrboro Mayor
Adam Searing: Chapel Hill Mayor
Elizabeth Sharp: Chapel Hill Town Council
Melissa McCullough: Chapel Hill Town Council
Jason Merrill: Carrboro Town Council
Jon Mitchell: Chapel Hill Town Council
Eliazar Posada: Carrboro Town Council
Theodore Nollert: Chapel Hill Town Council
Amy Ryan: Chapel Hill Town Council
Catherine Fray: Carrboro Town Council
Jeffrey Hoagland: Chapel Hill Town Council
Erik Valera: Chapel Hill Town Council
How do you view affordable housing as a racial equity issue?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: Affordable housing is a racial and social justice issue for all low-income SES populations, in particular black and brown people. For example, per the American Association of University Women, "Black women are paid over 1/3 less than white men for doing the same work." It would go to stand then, that black women's housing should be 30% than white men. I am running for town council because I grew up as a lower middle class white person - my mother a waitress and father a local newspaper journalist - near Navajo reservations in New Mexico and in small towns in central Louisiana. My first best friends were black and I lived in a mixed community. My mother and I have both been on food stamps at some point in our lives. However, in public schools I experienced first hand the differential treatment provided to varied skin colors and how it impacts wages and housing. In Chapel Hill, the current town council has destroyed over 250 affordable apartments for 600+ luxury / market rate condos and apartments, displacing hundreds of low income people. This is less than a mile from my house where there is a great needs for hourly workers as well. This is one of the main reasons I am running for town council. I intend to fight for those who aren't given the same position at the starting line in life because of their skin color.
Jess Anderson: Affordable housing is a direct policy intervention aimed at undoing inequality due to redlining and other racially-motivated policies of the past, . Black and brown community members are much more likely to experience housing insecurity due to systemic issues that cover every sector of society, including education, employment and healthcare. Creating housing that is accessible to marginalized communities is a critical component of our town's robust racial equity work. I've directly supported this work through my participation on the Partnership to End Homelessness Executive Leadership Team and my voting record, which shows I've supported every possible affordable housing project in our community.
Renuka Soll: Affordable housing is a racial equity issue. People of color are more likely to struggle with rent or buying a house because of historical discrimination in housing markets. For example, redlining was a practice in which banks and other financial institutions denied loans to people of color in certain neighborhoods, which made it difficult for them to buy homes. This resulted in people of color being more likely to rent than own their homes, and they are more likely to be rent-burdened, meaning that they pay more than 30% of their income on rent.
Barbara Foushee: Race equity should be embedded into all affordable housing goals and strategies. Because of decades of institutional and systemic racism, people of color are more likely to face eviction, homelessness and lack of access to safe, adequate affordable housing. We can't solve housing inequities until we acknowledge the role that racism plays in it. Economic mobility, education and having access to jobs with a living wage are tied to affordable housing access as well.
Adam Searing: Lack of affordable housing disproportionately affects our residents based on race. Decades of decisions on housing financing have meant less opportunity for Black North Carolinians to buy housing and build wealth while subsidizing home purchasing for white residents. These inequities also effect many other residents of color. That’s why over the last year and a half I voted for over $9 million in new direct town investment in affordable housing with hundreds of new units like Habitat's Weavers Grove, the Community Home Trust's Master Leasing Program, and Homestead Gardens. That's why I voted for multiple affordable housing projects like the Peach Street Apartments, Gattis Court, Carraway Village (although now on hold), and our new great town project at Trinity Court. Finally, I also voted for changes in our development process to rapidly speed up the review and building of projects that contain at least 25% affordable housing so as to lower costs and encourage more affordable development. We are doing more for affordable housing than any other community I know of in North Carolina.
Elizabeth Sharp: The history of discriminatory housing policies in this country has left a legacy of housing inequality in which historically marginalized groups bear the majority of the burden of the housing affordability problem.
Melissa McCullough: The roots of housing inequality originated with racist practices long ago. White-only zoning, redlining, discrimination in lending, deliberate neglect of Black neighborhood amenities like trees, running highways through established Black neighborhoods, single-family-only zoning, gentrification without protection from displacement – these practices have meant disproportionate opportunities for property-wealth-creation for some and either neglect or deliberate destruction of property-wealth-creation for others. As expensive neighborhoods get amenities and become more exclusive, it creates scarcity of available land in town, raising land and property value and property taxes, and, thus, housing costs overall. If taxes are too high, lower income people may need to sell, and gentrification with displacement can occur. If people must move farther out to afford housing, then the need for a car effectively adds up to $10,000 a year to costs of living. In other words, our politics of housing scarcity pushes Black communities out of our Town, heaping additional cost burdens onto them; these exclusionary policies are part of a long historical tradition of racism in housing.
Jason Merrill: The wealth gap in this country, and in our community, is appalling. The advantages of multi-generational wealth highlight the inherent unfairness in the status quo and the disadvantages endured by people and families of color have been exponentially amplified by having the wealth created by their ancestors stolen from them. The primary vehicle for working people to acquire and accumulate lasting wealth is homeownership, and ensuring that housing is affordable and attainable by everyone is one of the pillars of my platform. Furthermore, I believe that we must prioritize the housing needs, and the wealth accumulating opportunities, of the historically marginalized members of our community in order to begin repairing the damage done.
Jon Mitchell: Our racial wealth gap has a lot to do with our history of discriminatory housing policies (redlining, restrictive covenants, etc.). See The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein. In addition, exclusionary zoning by definition impacts less affluent groups disproportionately and, in my view, unfairly. See my forthcoming blog post on why, as chair of the Planning Commission, I supported the "Housing Choices" amendments (three times).
Eliazar Posada: Affordable is a human right. As we look at finding solutions for affordable housing we must acknowledge work against the effect of systemic racism and racial injustice has had in our community. We know BIPOC folks have been deeply impacted by policies rooted in racism and we must use a racial equity lens when working towards affordable housing. We must acknowledge and take work to combat the results of redlining and racial steering in Carrboro and how those practices have yielded the housing affordability crisis and lack of generation wealth we see today in BIPOC communities.
Theodore Nollert: There is a clear wealth disparity along racial lines in America because of a long history of exploitation - from slavery to sharecropping to segregation and redlining. Some continue to benefit from and cling to this unequal status quo. When we help those who need it most, sometimes we are helping people whose families are poor because they were victims of a racist, exclusive system. Easing their path to safe, stable housing is a step towards reversing that inequity and equipping them to build wealth.
Amy Ryan: Housing is a right, and equal access to housing is fundamental to equity of all kinds. It allows families to live safely, for their children to thrive, and (in the cases of homeownership) for families to build generational wealth. In order to address racial, economic, and health inequity in this country, you have to address housing inequity.
Catherine Fray: Affordable housing is a racial equity issue for me in at least 2 ways: 1) Racial bias is a major cause of housing segregation and drives a scarcity of affordable housing in wealthy municipalities like Carrboro. After the Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned racial covenants, which were very popular in Chapel Hill and Carrboro at that time, both towns' land use rules were updated to include a wide array of superficially race-neutral rules aimed at making homes more expensive. Although Carrboro's vision and public values have changed since then, many of the restrictive rules about home building are still in our ordinance today and still drive housing prices up, making Carrboro richer and whiter. 2) For anyone whose life is already impacted by racism, making it harder to get an education, get a good job, stay healthy, save money, and all the other things that mark a comfortable life, home affordability is just one more straw on the camel. High rents keep folks from saving, high prices keep folks from buying, and high valuations strain the budgets of those who did buy or inherit property. Housing insecurity is one of the most painful traumas that a racially biased system can inflict on families, and the high cost of housing helps keep people down.
Jeffrey Hoagland: it's not
Erik Valera: The affordable housing crisis stems from historic and structural inequities. Historically, Black communities have been socially and politically marginalized using tactics like segregation, redlining, and exclusionary zoning, making it difficult if not impossible for homeowners to accumulate generational wealth from the equity in their homes on par with their white counterparts.
What specific ideas do you have for creating affordable housing for individuals earning 30% Area Median Income (AMI) and below?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: 1. Don't build affordable housing on toxic waste dumps and draining ponds like the current town council plans with areas around Bolin Creek and Legion Park, respectively. This is, of course, their answer to the recent destruction of hundreds of affordable housing units that they approved for demolition for luxury apartments for wealthy college students.
2. STOP destroying established affordable homes for "luxury" (expensive) apartments like what is happening at Eastgate Crossing in Chapel Hill.
3. Prioritize environmentally responsible and local developers. - Let developers compete with each other on who offers the most community and climate-change protections. Developments with mixed rental and for-sale affordable housing, tiny homes, and townhomes which also have flex, office, local business, and community spaces offer something for everyone from an environmental and economic lens as well as a cultural one.
4. A combination of mixed housing offerings, prioritizing developers who build affordable housing, increasing massive penalties for not including 15%+ affordable housing as part of a development or offering at least 10% or more of net profits to go into an affordable housing fund is a start! Using a town app and polling methods to gather information from communities along with including leading community members to attend development sessions is a must.
Jess Anderson: We're already getting some units for individuals earning 30% AMI and below, but these are incredibly challenging to create without federal and/or private subsidy. As we continue to build out our "Complete Community vision", which includes dense housing along greenways, we need to have an affordable housing overlay that requires units for those earning under 30% AMI in key areas (i.e., near transit and shopping) in exchange for density bonuses. We also need to pursue strategic LIHTC projects on town-owned land (as we've done with our Greenfield and Jay Street projects). Plant Road and Bennett Road are additional town-owned properties that we can leverage for diversity in affordable units.
Renuka Soll: • Use public land for affordable housing development. The government could provide subsidies to developers who build affordable housing on public land or work with nonprofits to build the housing.
• Require developers to set aside a larger percentage of units for affordable housing. Right now, the inclusionary zoning is for 15% of units in town and 10% in downtown. These percentages should be higher.
• Provide rental assistance to low-income families.
• Build more mixed-income housing. Mixed-income housing is housing that includes a mix of affordable and market-rate units. This type of housing can help to create a more diverse and inclusive community.
• Support community land trusts. Community land trusts are organizations that own land and lease it to developers who build affordable housing. Community land trusts can help to ensure that affordable housing is available for the long term.
• Lobby the government to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The LIHTC program is the largest federal program that provides funding for affordable housing development. It provides tax credits to developers who build or rehabilitate affordable housing units. The LIHTC program has been very successful in creating affordable housing, but it could be expanded to provide even more.
Barbara Foushee: We need funding, collaborations with affordable housing providers, government agency engagement and good working relationships with developers who might want to help with housing the lowest income community members. This effort would entail bringing together a coalition of community and all available resources over a sustained period of time to be successful and sustainable. It will take all of us!
Adam Searing: Creating housing for our lowest income residents is critical. That’s why I pushed and voted for our Trinity Court town redevelopment that will address some of this need with great housing close to both downtown and an amazing park. We also need more funding for projects like this focused on residents below 30% AMI from the North Carolina General Assembly, which has been woefully deficient in recent years in helping local communities financially with their housing needs – I will advocate for this as well. We can do a lot in Chapel Hill, but we can do much more with more direct state investment to complement our other funding streams.
Elizabeth Sharp: I would like to see publicly funded developers and housing non-profits given preferential higher-density zoning guidelines in existing neighborhoods in order to provide public housing access that is well-integrated into the rest of the community and is guaranteed to meet the needs of low-income residents and families, rather than simply becoming a commodity for the highest bidder.
Melissa McCullough: Chapel Hill does pretty well for a community our size in building affordable housing, but we aren’t anywhere near meeting the need. I support building units on town-owned land, such as is proposed on the Legion Road property, which will have the amenity of an adjacent park. But, given the unmet needs, we need to be more creative and look for examples that have worked for other communities, such as public-private partnerships, micro-unit buildings, or a program like in Montgomery County, MD, where the housing commission acted as a benevolent investor to get more affordable units in a market rate building.
While we do things like that, we also need to work to bring down the costs of housing townwide by increasing supply. Facilitating creation of accessory dwelling units, modest multiplexes and other missing middle housing will help address not only overall supply and cost, but also help fill the gap in housing choices between expensive single family and apartment complexes.
Jason Merrill: I believe that the best immediate opportunity for the Town is to continue partnering with organizations that have a proven track record of building high quality affordable housing (e.g. Habitat for Humanity). Additionally, we should strive to lower regulatory hurdles for these builders in order to hasten the process and reduce the costs of building. Going forward, the Town should deem the creation of affordable housing as the highest and best use for all publicly controlled land when considering redevelopment. If local municipalities were not preempted from requiring affordable housing as a component of all developments, I would push to mandate that as well.
Jon Mitchell: (1) Use suitable Town-owned land for low-income housing (which the Town has been doing). (2) Be willing to up-zone for LIHTC projects, such as Trinity Court and Jay St. (both of which I recommended as a member of the Planning Commission). (3) Continue to provide grants for low-income housing projects. (4) Continue to fund rental assistance programs. (5) encourage wider acceptance of housing choice vouchers, possibly through incentives. (6) Consider a co-housing pilot project (a creative idea that I'd like to add to the conversation).
Eliazar Posada: There are several interesting strategies and tactics outlined in the affordable housing committee of the Big Bold Ideas initiative that center ways to increase stock, finding creative solutions to the towns providing incentives and support to make more long lasting affordable units, and ways to create public/private partnerships to address affordable housing. I also want to see the town continue to support and work with local nonprofits through our affordable housing fund to reach our Town goals and vision outlined in the Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan.
Since I joined the Town Council, I have dedicated my time to support affordable housing. I worked with my colleagues and town staff to advance projects which will create more housing inventory in town, improve funding for affordable housing nonprofits, and utilize American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, allocating $500,000.00 to Emergency Housing Assistance and $1,000,000.00 to the Affordable Housing Fund and more. At the same time, supporting funding for organizations like Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness and the Interfaith Council. This is just the beginning, I will continue to work to support affordable housing, from zoning changes to town ordinances to fund current programs.
Making housing affordable should not be our only goal in addressing housing in Carrboro. We must ensure that we use our resources to improve our town so that our communities can live, work, and play in Carrboro. By investing in our town’s Affordable Housing Fund, creating partnerships with landlords and developers we can support our neighborhoods in making any improvements needed, and ensure that Carrboro remains the best place to call home.
Theodore Nollert: I know of only one effective way to create affordable housing for individuals earning 30% AMI and below: subsidized housing. The Town has typically relied on bonds to create this housing. We can also use Town-owned land to reduce the overall cost of construction. We recently gained a valuable tool in the $5 million loan fund that UNC Health provided as part of the approval of Eastown. In the absence of major state funding to create public housing, one way to maximize our number of units for people making 30% AMI or less is to reduce unit sizes. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than being unable to afford housing.
Amy Ryan: Historically, and at an accelerated pace during my first term as Council member, Chapel Hill has used a number of levers to create affordable housing, including inclusionary zoning ordinances, negotiations with developers, donations of land, subsidizing our housing partners, master leasing, requiring new developments to accept vouchers, and helping families to stay in/maintain their existing housing. In the last four years alone, the town invested $19 million in these efforts. Getting housing for folks at 30% AMI and below is the hardest to do. We help get these units through providing land and/or subsidy (PEACH Apartments, Perry Place), through encouraging voucher programs, through our development process, and through the town’s public housing program. We have a consultant working with us now to assess our housing policy and help us find new ways to address our affordable housing needs, especially the challenging issue of providing housing at very low AMIs.
We also recognize that much of our naturally occurring very affordable housing is a prime target for redevelopment and displacement. While the town doesn’t have the authority to keep an owner from redeveloping/renovating their property, Council is talking about ways to get out front of this problem and involve owners in finding solutions that either prevent displacement (as was done with great success at Glen Lennox) or provide assistance (housing relocation services and money for deposits/moving expenses, like we did at the Park Apartments) for those who are displaced. I’m hoping that the recent $5 million in revolving loan fund seed money from UNC-Health will help us find other solutions for preserving (and improving) this kind of naturally occurring affordable housing.
Catherine Fray: Making housing affordable for folks earning under 30% of AMI requires particular attention from our town, because it requires subsidies or grants to make it possible. I have several specific ideas: 1) Carrboro should streamline building reviews for homes that meet our goals (smaller, denser, walkable, transit-oriented). This directly frees up staff time to work on affordable housing. 2) Carrboro should have a full-time employee working on affordable housing - seeking LIHTC, HOME, and other grants, coordinating with non-profit builders, and shepherding affordable projects through the Town processes. Making deeply affordable housing happen is a full time job, and we should act like it. 3) Carrboro must repair its exclusive land use rules which require excessive lot sizes, setbacks, and other dimensions which make all housing more expensive but are an especially heavy burden on affordable homes.
Jeffrey Hoagland: increasing logistic infrastructure for car use and make it easier for people with cars to get into and out of town, forcing housing equilibrium between county prices and city prices
Erik Valera: People earning 30% of the area median income are particularly vulnerable to housing instability and displacement. To achieve our housing goals I support a $.02 property tax to support new construction and update existing housing units. Additionally I would support initiating a bond referendum for new bonds to accelerate the process.
Developing and maintaining subsidized affordable housing requires collective action solutions that include the active participation of governments, philanthropy, nonprofit partners, and most importantly the voices of those impacted by the crisis.
To create this type of housing efficiently we need to address the land use management ordinances’ to address the zoning barriers, and fast track these types of projects. Government owned land needs to be prioritized to build more subsidized affordable housing units. However, government owned land is a finite resource, therefore we need to build densely and provide access to municipal amenities such as greenways, parks, and public transportation. What’s more, municipalities have a responsibility to press on the North Carolina General Assembly to either raise the minimum wage, otherwise allow local governments to set a minimum wage that aligns with the cost of living.
For many years, our communities have made protecting the environment a priority. And yet, our region is rapidly growing, producing a severe shortage of affordable housing. How do we build affordable housing while protecting the environment?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: All efforts toward "Green Growth" will be made if I am on the town council as outlined. Examples: Energy Star certified buildings, town driven composting programs, separating recycled material or better campaigns on HOW and WHAT is recycled, investing in local businesses that offer upcycled products, community gardens/rooftop gardens, solar panels on established and upcoming housing, tankless water heaters, tree canopy requirements, advertising savings on green investments, more electric / hybrid buses for police, schools, fire departments, and government workers, and SO many more! We CAN have it all!
For parks and greenways, there are many cities creating permeable concrete pavers (St. Louis), recycling old building construction matter into crushed stone and gravel, porous asphalt (Middleton WI) and others: http://courseresources.mit.usf.edu/sgs/geb6930/module_4/read/building_the_green_way.pdf
Jess Anderson: In Chapel Hill, we can say we do both. Housing and climate are inextricably connected. I believe we must build dense housing along greenways/linear parks, so residents can get where they need to go without having to get in their cars. We've found that getting people out of their cars not only battles climate change (since our largest producer of carbon is vehicle miles traveled), but also lowers household expenses by over 20%. So getting people out of their cars is a win-win in terms of both affordability and environmentalism.
Renuka Soll: There are many ways to protect the environment and build affordable housing. Here are a few ideas:
• Build green affordable housing. Green affordable housing is housing that is designed to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, such as adopting electrically powered appliances. This type of housing can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save residents money on their energy bills.
• Rehabilitate existing buildings which can be a more sustainable way to build affordable housing than constructing new buildings because it reduces the amount of waste and pollution that is generated.
• Use sustainable materials when building or rehabilitating affordable housing.
• Plan for mixed-use development. Mixed-use development is development that combines residential, commercial, and office space in the same area. This type of development can help to reduce traffic congestion and promote walkability.
• Incorporate green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is natural features that can be used to manage stormwater runoff and improve air quality. This type of infrastructure can be incorporated into affordable housing developments to make them more sustainable.
• Locate housing near public transit and/or increase bus service.
Barbara Foushee: Compact, dense development and using green design and construction are a couple of good ways to achieve safe, resilient affordable housing. Affordable housing and the climate crisis are intersecting issues, and we should look for ways to make sure policies complement each other around these issues and not create competition.
Adam Searing: As climate change causes our world to warm in unprecedented ways, we are all recognizing the increasing importance of our public parks, public woods and creeks, and public green spaces. The benefits of parks and the necessity of making sure of equity in access to our parks and green spaces is critical now and will only be more so in the future. Parks are good for mental, physical and environmental health. [See the US Centers for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/activepeoplehealthynation/everyone-can-be-involved/parks-recreation-and-green-spaces.html) and this report from the Trust for Public Land (https://www.tpl.org/parks-promote-health-report]. Equity in access is critical and that’s why I believe everyone in our community should be able to walk in 10 minutes to a great park or green space. We can’t ask thousands of people to move here and not provide the parks and green spaces that make living here so desirable. That’s why I drew the line on two of the nine affordable housing initiatives we dealt with this year – the proposal to build on public green space purchased with voter-approved green space preservation bonds at Jay Street and the proposal to take the best 25% of public Legion Park (including the fishing pond) and build on land purchased with a majority of park bond funds in an area of town without a great park but welcoming thousands of new residents, including many in affordable housing. Not everyone has a car or can join a private club – but everyone can enjoy and should be able to walk to a great *public* park.
But how do we continue to prioritize housing as well? By thinking outside the box. Our major employer in Chapel Hill, UNC/UNC Hospitals, also employs many workers who make modest salaries doing critical jobs like providing housekeeping services in our hospital, serving food, and keeping the University and hospital environmental systems running. UNC also happens to own an empty, unused airport approximately 50+ acres in size at the corner of Estes and Martin Luther King Boulevard, a few minutes bus ride from downtown, UNC Hospitals and UNC itself. State funding could allow UNC to create an amazing, subsidized housing development that would in one project address huge amounts of our housing needs in town and be able to be heavily subsidized with sliding scale rents to enable UNC’s more modestly paid staff and faculty to live there. And this is currently empty land that is not being used for a park, public green space or any other use! It’s these sorts of creative solutions we need to get away from our zero-sum parks v. affordable housing debates. We can build housing and preserve the parks and green spaces our residents need – but we can’t do one without the other.
Elizabeth Sharp: We need to densify existing neighborhoods intentionally and respectfully, thereby increasing the housing supply while minimizing sprawl. This does not mean throwing open the zoning floodgates to real estate investors simply looking to maximize their return on investment. It means tight control over what gets developed, where, for whom, and with what building standards.
Melissa McCullough: The sprawl pattern of growth is responsible for both the shortage of affordable housing and the destruction of the environment. Farms and forests have often been paved over for a combination of single-family-only neighborhoods and a patchwork of strip malls, big-box stores, shopping malls, unwalkable streets and more land used to house cars than people. This is why transportation is our biggest source of climate-changing pollution; one needs a car to go anywhere and each destination is a distance from the next.
Affordable housing and, really, all new housing should be done in more compact, denser building forms, both for affordability of the land, but also for the convenience of getting around via transit and walking, biking or rolling, which saves money. At the same time, for environmental protection, climate resilience and human health, we need to have ample trees and green space all around the denser building, including a park within a 15-minute walk for everyone.
Jason Merrill: First, I think that there is an important distinction to made between our "environment" and our "ecosystem". If our environment is defined by our setting (i.e. how many trees do I see when I look out the window) and our ecosystem is defined by the functional components (i.e. how many tons of co2 are we emitting), I would propose that the health of our ecosystem is the more important measurement. One of the primary drivers in the skyrocketing cost of housing is a severe shortage of inventory caused by decades of anti-growth, anti-density, and exclusionary attitudes. Increasing the baseline density of development within the bounds of our already developed spaces is the best way to increase our housing inventory in a way that is consistent with maintaining the health of our ecosystem.
Jon Mitchell: The question seems to imply that we should perhaps modify the rural buffer. I'm open to that conversation, but I would note that according to a recent consultant report, the Town has about 50-75 years of growth capacity within Town limits.
That said, I see no inherent conflict between dense growth and environmental sustainability. Relatively dense, walkable development has climate benefits, and in-town natural areas are an essential component of it. One reason I favor dense growth within Town limits is the potential for residents to save on transportation costs (currently 15-20% of pretax income for residents at middle and lower income levels).
Eliazar Posada: I believe that we can do both by doing a few things; build green, ensure to keep as much native vegetation and canopy as possible, build stormwater management systems designed to meet the needs of our communities taking into consideration climate change, reducing parking minimums, building close to public transit, ensure energy efficient homes, incorporate solar and/or other renewable energy sources, build density and more.
In the Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan, we have outlined several ways the town will be working to build on our affordable housing stock and meet the changes of our changing climate. Some of those strategies include; designing and retrofitting energy-efficient housing to reduce housing costs, Locating housing in areas with high transit accessibility to provide transportation options and reduce auto-dependence, which can reduce total housing and transportation costs, and Working with OWASA to create more affordable water pricing strategies to reduce costs to residents. I strongly believe that these two objectives are not and should not be in conflict with each other, rather something we can address creatively at the same time.
Theodore Nollert: ITruly affordable housing in Chapel Hill depends on subsidies. Attainable housing is something we can create simply by permitting more housing to be built. The way to create attainable housing without destroying the environment is to prioritize density over sprawl. Denser housing is good for the environment because it reduces emissions, and new buildings are more energy efficient than old ones. This means that we should accept building up instead of out, and should promote a greater price range by allowing smaller lot sizes, smaller unit sizes, and a wide variety of unit types.
Amy Ryan: Balancing important, valuable interests is one of the most challenging tasks of a Council member. The people of Chapel Hill need both access to housing AND a healthy environment to thrive. I’m always sorry to see attempts to pit one interest against the other – it’s not either/or; it needs to be both/and.
Fortunately, much of the land that’s important to preserve (because it lies along streams or in wetlands, or because it’s steeply sloped) is difficult to develop or not suitable for housing. Our Complete Community effort is working to identify places like these that are important to preserve, so we can optimize the remaining parcels for housing development.
Catherine Fray: We start by recognizing that affordable housing and environmental protection are not in conflict. Sprawling single family neighborhoods are a climate disaster. Denser, smaller, transit-oriented and walkable homes are better for the environment (more units for the footprint of disturbed land, fewer car trips, less electricity consumed) and are also more affordable. So we do both at the same time by avoiding building in sensitive areas (core watersheds, steep slopes, floodplains), refusing sprawl, including smart design elements like shading and stormwater controls, and by making every bit of land count. We should avoid expanding the urban services boundary, which prevents our towns from sprawling out into the rural buffer, and build up instead.
Jeffrey Hoagland: efficient infrastucture, we know the best ways to build infrastucture to cause the least pollution while allowing most transfer efficiency
Erik Valera: Climate change doesn’t discriminate, moving forward we should expect more torrential storm events, and extreme temperatures. However these changes take a bigger toll on the lives of people with fewer resources. Mitigating the effects of climate change requires preserving nature, and especially our rural buffers.
As we need new housing units, we should be building densely and vertically. Many in our area would like to maintain height requirements that keep buildings with fewer stories. We can only grow in two directions, up or out. Building taller provides opportunities for more units, mitigating the cost per unit.
How would you support town and county programs to assist long-time homeowners with property tax reductions?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: I am a homeowner in a modest 1960s neighborhood in Chapel Hill. Orange County pays the MOST property taxes in the southeast and we don't even have sidewalks in our neighborhod - kids and pets play in the street!
The CURRENT TOWN COUNCIL has squandered $10+ million of town funds with consultants and PAYING corporate retailers like Wegmans, subsidizing overpriced apartments, and even mortgaging the town hall to build access roads for luxury apartment developers who can afford to pay for them - Ex: The Hartley
• Cut funding for external consultants
• Design a town app for real time polling and comments
Jess Anderson: I'm very supportive of contributing to the county fund for long-time homeowners who cannot afford their taxes. This is especially important at a time when we must increase taxes to pay our town employees fairly.
Renuka Soll: Right now, there are 3 property tax provisions for homeowners - the disabled veterans exclusion, the elderly/disabled exclusion, and the circuit breaker exclusion. This mainly helps those who are over the age of 65. If you aren't of that age (or a veteran), there isn't any help regardless of how low your income is. I would like to work with the town and county to expand these programs, if possible.
Another way around it would be to have a tax assistance program where cash grants with no strings attached are offered to low-income, long-term home owners. This is happening in Charlotte and Durham and appears to be working well. Chapel Hill should look into it too.
Barbara Foushee: I absolutely support this effort and would continue to advocate for it from a municipal seat. Property tax is a county function. This program is especially important for the elderly and disabled who may be living on fixed incomes.
Adam Searing: I was the only member of the Chapel Hill Town Council to vote against raising our property taxes 10% this year – one of the largest tax increases in our history. And Chapel Hill residents of Orange County already pay the highest average property taxes of anyone in the entire Southeastern US. Property taxes are fairly regressive as well, with burdens falling most heavily on our lower-income residents and those with fixed incomes. While I support state programs and the limited amount of additional local relief we can do under state law for our lowest income residents, any relief programs leave out many residents who simply can’t qualify. And we must keep in mind the more relief we give locally to some lower income residents, those lower income residents just above the cutoff for relief will be paying even more in taxes to fund these local relief programs. We can’t claim to be a welcoming community for our lower income or “missing middle” residents if our property taxes are so high that many residents simply can’t afford to live here – and can move to surrounding towns and counties where taxes are a fraction of what they are in Chapel Hill. These sky-high taxes impact the housing we can offer as well – for many people we want to encourage to buy housing, property taxes are now an outsize portion of their monthly payments. The best solution for property tax relief is to strengthen our local low income relief programs to the extent we can under state law while keeping our property tax increases to a level that provides for our necessary services but doesn’t make Chapel Hill such an outlier in communities our size in NC and other states.
Elizabeth Sharp: Particularly in light of Chapel Hill's impending property tax increase, it's important that our local government support the Board of County Commissioner's Longtime Homeowner Assistance program so that homeowners of modest income aren't effectively punished for maintaining the asset of their home over time. Further, since Chapel Hill property values and property taxes are substantially higher than other parts of Orange County, the Chapel Hill Town Council could explore a city-specific program similar to the LHA program.
Melissa McCullough: I believe that this is a good way to take reparative action for those families who have been the backbone of Chapel Hill for generations. My expertise is not in tax law, so I’m not sure what actions we can legally take. But I would definitely support exploring and implementing ways for long-term homeowners, and their families, to stay in their homes by assisting with property tax reductions or other financial assistance.
Jason Merrill: I would engage the Town's existing community outreach staff to seek out long-time homeowners and assist them with clearing the bureaucratic hurdles that discourage access to these existing programs.
Jon Mitchell: I'm open to cash grant programs, such as Orange County's LHA Program. It's my understanding that the state has not delegated to the Town the authority to provide targeted reductions or exemptions for long-time homeowners, so cash grant programs are probably the best option.
Eliazar Posada: I have not spent much time learning about what is currently available, so I would start there. I would like to know what the need is, what programs currently exist and then work with staff to see what ways we as a town can respond to the need.
Theodore Nollert: I support town and county programs that are targeted to low-income folks to prevent displacement, which is what we currently have in Orange County. I do not support blanket applications of such programs that would help wealthy incumbent homeowners avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Amy Ryan: Because of state law, we can’t tax different properties at different rates, so efforts like this entail creating and funding property tax relief programs. In its latest budget, I supported the town allocating $100,000 to property tax relief – and that’s in addition to the funds already available from Orange County.
Catherine Fray: I will support the town to continue and expand pandemic programs to provide emergency rent and tax assistance. We've just had a clear lesson in how important they are for folks.
Jeffrey Hoagland: by getting rid of programs that do not help people, thus lowering the tax burden, which allows for lower taxes
Erik Valera: I would support town and county programs to assist owner occupied homes with a reduction in property tax based on financial need.
How would you support the preservation of manufactured home parks as affordable housing?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: Communities need to be involved in decision making. Make information public regarding the pros and cons of development well ahead of decisions. Include community leaders and obtain consensus on options as develop decisions are made.
Jess Anderson: Manufactured home parks (MHPs) can be a great way to maintain affordable housing. In fact, our LUMO already contains an overlay that preserves our manufactured home parks. I've voted "no" on projects in Chapel Hill North that would displace residents of MHPs without providing a new place for them within the development. I'll demand that developers include residents of MPHs in their redevelopment plans. And, in cases where we cannot prevent displacement, I'm committed to helping residents find alternative affordable housing. We're also partnering with Habitat for Humanity to prioritize residents who have limited access to federally-funded affordable housing.
Renuka Soll: Manufactured home parks are affordable housing. The families own their home but rent the land where it sits from the park owner. This can lead the exploitation in that it's not that easy to move their manufactured home, making them more likely to try to pay rents even if they go up substantially. For this reason, I would like to see Chapel Hill buy the park land creating "safety" for the home owner or help the home owners to get together to buy the land underneath their homes for themselves.
Barbara Foushee: One of the biggest issues with manufactured home parks is folks being displaced when the manufactured home park owner decides to sell. One way to tackle this would be to establish a manufactured home park zone that would make sure that these areas would not get redeveloped, and residents would not be displaced. You can create an ordinance that would give residents the first right to purchase if the park owner plans to sell the park property. Lastly, the manufactured home park could also be sold to an organization who is dedicated to preserving it.
Adam Searing: We should look at innovative ways to work with public and private entities to purchase the land on which mobile home parks are located. With public ownership, land rental rates can be stabilized and residents can be assured that the park will not be sold and they can feel more secure in owning their manufactured homes. A model where we leverage private funding to allow residents to purchase a park themselves is even better, giving residents even more security in owning both their home and the land it sits on.
Elizabeth Sharp: While legislation might have to happen on the state level, we need to do what we can at the municipal level to encourage purchase opportunity agreements between park owners and the manufactured home owners, so that the homeowners are at lower risk of being displaced if the landowner decides to sell. This is accomplished in the best case by giving homeowners a right of first refusal to purchase the land themselves, and short of that mandating that park owners inform homeowners of their intention to sell and instituting a waiting period in order to give homeowners a chance to cooperatively assemble a competitive offer to buy the land on which their homes sit.
Melissa McCullough: This is a particularly sticky problem, because often the owners of the manufactured homes (MH) are at the mercy of the landowners of the MH parks. As an example, the owners of the Tar Heel Mobile Court promised the previous owners they would protect the MH residents. But then they used the residents as bargaining chips to get Council approval for two other land uses (large gas station and self-storage) that were not allowable for that site. The virtual extortion worked and the Town approved the two uses, which not only hinder meeting town goals, but also make the park less livable for residents, all while providing, at best, tenuous and time-limited protection.
I can’t add a better evaluation of the problem than is in the Orange County Manufactured Homes Action Plan, but I think it’s worth admitting that, when the location of the park is on a transit line, there is the opportunity for greater density of affordable or attainable housing that is location efficient than we get with MH. The question then is: how can we add housing density without displacing residents, who have a community in that neighborhood and whose children are benefiting from a good school system? We need creative solutions and well-placed funding to both protect residents and add to our housing inventory. For example, we could consolidate vacated sites in parks to build modest multiplexes, like 6 plexes, to add housing incrementally as more of the park becomes available; or, we could preemptively rezone it in a way to protect residents and prevent crises from occuring in the future.
Jason Merrill: Frankly, this is my first foray into local governance and I'm a total civics amateur so I honestly don't know what tools are available to support the preservation of manufactured home parks outside of idealistic concepts, such as supporting a transition to resident-owned communities, but I do believe that manufactured home parks are an important part of our housing inventory and I will do what I can to preserve them.
Jon Mitchell: The County-Wide Manufactured Homes Action Plan (2022) has a variety of recommendations concerning preservation and minimizing displacement. I would like to see these prioritized in terms of feasibility and effectiveness and acted on. Absent that, I fear we'll once again be in reaction mode when (not if) the next 1200 MLK situation arises. The difference between a menu of options and an action plan is that the latter allocates roles, target dates, and accountability. That's what we should do here.
Eliazar Posada: I have and will continue to support a Carrboro Manufactured Home Community Preservation and Displacement Strategy, like what was discussed back in 2021 in the Affordable Housing Advisory Commission , as well as implement the Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan strategies to preserve and support manufactured homes. As someone who grew up in mobile homes, I know first hand how important it is to not only preserve our manufactured homes communities but also provide resources to ensure they are able to repair and maintain their homes.
Manufactured homes are many times the only opportunity members of our community have to own their own home. By providing more opportunities for more community members to own their homes and protecting and expanding the existing stock of manufactured homes, we are supporting not only the individual and their family but their community. Manufactured home communities are, for the most part, tight knit communities where neighbors help each other out, strong ties are created among the young kids and adults and provide a sense of security for many BIPOC, immigrant and low income folks. I want to strengthen those ties rather than tear them apart.
Theodore Nollert: The most important change to make is to ensure that manufactured home parks are zoned residential and not zoned commercial. I also think it’s important to acknowledge how much other usable land we have before we move to develop manufactured home parks. Chapel Hill has a lot of capacity for infill and for added density in other areas before turning to our few remaining manufactured home parks. Especially given that this housing is currently among the most affordable, we should be in no rush to develop it in order to meet the demand for growth.
Amy Ryan: This is a very, very difficult problem. We can’t prevent private owners from redeveloping their property and displacing MHP residents. We can (and do) try to work with landowners who plan to redevelop to come up with strategies for preserving some of the housing, or for helping to relocate residents on-site or to new housing. In the past, we’ve looked at strategies like town purchasing the MHP land, offering relocation assistance, helping to create new MHP developments in the county, but because of money and other issues, none were viable options.
Orange County and the municipalities have developed a MHP strategy, and we’re now working on ways to meet the challenges of funding and implementation. We’re also working with our partners to find ways to provide options for MHP families and individuals who can’t qualify for federal housing benefits.
Catherine Fray: Manufactured homes, if well maintained, can make good and fast affordable housing, but we should not expand them in areas where they expose more people to danger. I'm particularly concerned about parks located in floodplains. In the short and medium term, these parks need to be preserved and services provided to residents to help with flooding issues. In the longer term, residents in floodplain areas should be shortlisted for spots in deeply affordable subsidized homes elsewhere in town if they would like them. It's not fair to folks who need affordable housing to ask them to live with the risk to their lives and belongings that will come along with staying in a floodplain over the next years as climate change makes flooding much worse, or to leave them to their own resources to move so long as there are no comparably priced homes.
Jeffrey Hoagland: no rezoning that leads to redevelopment, or no rezoning that makes people homeless
Erik Valera: The community engagement feedback for the “Shaping our Futures Transportation and Land Use Initiative” is rich with comments regarding the amenities that come with transit oriented development. The following feedback was recorded under the theme “Mobile Home Parks”:
“Mobile Home Parks
• A lot of Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing – particularly mobile home parks – is under threat.
• Stay away from the mobile home parks. Town of Chapel Hill – June 2022
• The mobile home parks should be on the table – owners will make their own plans.”
The County-wide Manufactured Home Strategy Action Plan developed by the Manufactured Home Staff Working Group outlines a plan to preserve manufactured home communities, create a relocation assistance package to provide relocation assistance, and minimize displacement due to redevelopment. I support this plan!
I will use my platform to ensure that the coalition of community members, governments, nonprofits are given the resources to implement the Action Plan. In return I will hold the Manufactured Home Staff Working Group accountable to hold their end of the bargain.
As such, I will support the Town in leveraging park landlords and prospective developers to a fair relocation assistance compensation package before the town agrees to do business with them. Further I would propose tax incentives for housing units along the North-South Rapid Transit line that are rented or sold to anyone that had ever been displaced as a result of redevelopment over a period the subsequent 30 years. This would promote future housing options for the children living in these communities once grown.
Do you think we spend too much, too little, or just about the right amount on affordable housing? Why?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: Too little: We can always do more to lighten the load of those who need and deserve support and bolster our marginalized communities.
Jess Anderson: The right amount: Chapel Hill dedicates millions of dollars a year for affordable housing (as we should, based on our community values and our incredible need). Right now, we have huge budgetary needs for capital projects, including fire stations, municipal services complex, and aging fleet of municipal vehicles. But we must attend to these needs without reducing our commitment to affordable housing. To do this, and keep up with factors like inflation and cost to build, we may need another affordable housing bond that will likely exceed the amount of our last bond.
Renuka Soll: Too little: We have a great need for affordable housing and need to do better. I think that working with UNC could help. If they could house their students by creating the apartment-style housing that they desire and build work-force housing for their low income employees, it would help Chapel Hill a lot. We need to look at different ways of fighting this problem.
Barbara Foushee: Too little: Housing affordability is a major issue across the country and requires adequate funding to be successful. In Carrboro, we have an affordable housing special revenue fund which provides a dedicated revenue stream for affordable housing. The money can be used for weatherization, critical home repairs and land acquisition for projects with local affordable housing providers. There will always be a need for affordable housing money in the community as we try to increase the stock and maintain the naturally occurring affordable housing.
Adam Searing: The right amount: I voted for over $9 million in new housing directly for affordable housing this year and supported seven major affordable housing projects. We are doing a great deal for affordable housing in Chapel Hill. I am not aware of any other communities in North Carolina our size who are doing more for affordable housing.
Elizabeth Sharp: Too little: If we want our town to be populated equitably by the people who work here, we need to be creative about how to create appealing, affordable housing options for everyone. In conjunction with those efforts, it's vital that we spend the needed funds on the public services that complete the vision of equitable life in Chapel Hill, like parks and other public spaces and amenities. Housing is a very important, but not the only, piece of the equity puzzle.
Melissa McCullough: Too little: The town has many priorities, some of which provide for other needs of disadvantaged populations, like transit. However, I believe there are opportunities to accomplish more than we do with non-Town funds; see my longer answers above.
Jason Merrill: Too little: We are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that has been decades in the making that we will need to work very hard to address if we want to see meaningful progress before the middle of the century.
Jon Mitchell: I don't know enough yet to provide a simple answer, but here are my thoughts. Historically, our funding model has relied heavily on periodic bond issuances. I'd like to see us provide more predictable funding streams. The new revolving loan fund is a great step in that direction. My approach to calibrating the appropriate amount of spending involves looking at how we can most efficiently and effectively deploy money to help cost constrained folks. Surely subsidies for affordable housing are a primary way. Investments in multi-modal transportation (greenways, transit) are another. I'd love to see a more holistic evaluation of impacts and trade-offs that encompasses both affordable housing and affordable transportation. These are different sides of the same issue of overall cost of living.
Eliazar Posada: Too little.
Theodore Nollert: Too little: We don't receive robust enough funding from the state with which to tackle the housing crisis.
Amy Ryan: The right amount: Affordability is one important piece of creating a sustainable, equitable, thriving town. We have created a very effective program (providing funding, town land, and staff) and just increased our annual affordable housing funding to a full penny on the tax rate. Our current rate of investment and effective strategies have made us a regional leader in creating and preserving affordable housing.
The town also invests in affordability in ways other than direct investment in housing. Most notably, we work to reduce transportation costs (a significant expense for many low-wealth families) with our fare-free bus system, revamped land planning that puts more housing directly adjacent to our best transportation services, and a new Everywhere to Everywhere transportation greenway system. All of these help people to reduce their transportation expenses significantly and makes living in Chapel Hill more affordable.
Catherine Fray: Too little: Our own analyses show that we are short hundreds of units of affordable housing, with the worst shortages for the most affordable homes. We are not fully on track to meet our own goal, and it's not clear that goal would actually ameliorate the profound housing shortage our town has created. The town needs to find money in the budget to make this a priority every year, not only when a windfall like ARPA is available.
Jeffrey Hoagland: Too much: thowing money at a problem, especally thru government, vary rarely results in the problem getting fixed, but it does give money to groups that will waste it, since the group was usually friends with the government that gives out the money
Erik Valera: Too little: Chapel Hill is struggling to adequately fund affordable housing despite increased spending in this area, there remains a $13.2 million shortfall to meet the development goals, as outlined in the 2022 report prepared by Chapel Hill Affordable Housing and Community Connections.. This funding gap can be attributed to competing priorities in the budget, and the rising cost of land and construction.
If elected, will you advocate that the town pass a policy to dedicate 2-cents of the property tax rate to an affordable housing fund? Why or why not?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: Yes: It's so little to provide so much.
Jess Anderson: Yes: I absolutely will support a full 2-cents on the tax rate at the appropriate time (once we have made sure our employees are compensated fairly and capital projects are planned and budgeted).
Renuka Soll: I'm not sure. I know that we don't have money to replace our police cars or buy fire engines. Our parks are in very bad condition. A lot of things needs to be looked at together. It would need a thorough evaluation before I can say for sure.
Barbara Foushee: Yes: Carrboro is currently dedicating 1.5 cents; a half a cent to go. I will try again during the next budget cycle.
Adam Searing: No: We raised our property taxes 10% this year and have backlogs of maintenance in our basic town services from our fire and garbage trucks to our deteriorating parks system. I believe we need to take care of these services as a priority. I also generally do not support dedication of taxes from the town's general fund to specific priorities, whether a dedication is for parks, public services, housing, or other critical needs. We ask our residents to pay taxes and then we allocate funding through the yearly town budget process with extensive community input. That way we can allocate funding - like the $9 million we dedicated to affordable housing this year - where the need is greatest.
Elizabeth Sharp: I could be in support of a policy like this, given a pre-existing framework that would ensure that the dedicated funds be spent on sustainably financed housing such as the limited profit housing associations in Vienna, and that any newly created housing be well-integrated into the rest of the community, so as to avoid a concentration of poverty.
Melissa McCullough: Yes: We already have a 1-cent allocation and spend more than that, so this is something I would definitely consider. However, I would want it to be a progressive, land-value tax. Some people are already having a difficult time with property taxes, but since part of the problem with housing affordability is that so much land is tied up in large single family lots, it seems that the larger the lot, the larger the affordable housing tax should be.
Jason Merrill: Yes: We already have a 1.5 cent tax, so what's another .5 cents?
Jon Mitchell: I'm open to it. I will abstain from making promises about specific budget allocations until I have been fully briefed on the budget.
Eliazar Posada: Yes.
Theodore Nollert: Yes: It's reasonable to earmark taxes for a recurring need.
Amy Ryan: No: We just had our first year of taking a meaningful five-year budget look forward, and the results were sobering – because of conservative budgeting during COVID, reluctance to raise taxes, and a history of limiting budgeting to one or at most two years of planning, we have a lot of catching up to do in order to execute on our core mission of providing essential town services, like updating the equipment and facilities our firefighters need, replacing aging bus, police, and staff vehicles, making staff compensation fair and regionally competitive, and maintaining town roads and buildings. Given that fiscal reality, I think that the town shouldn’t dedicate an extra penny to housing at this time, but keep to the current one-cent rate until we’ve caught up with deferred essential expenditures.
We are in the process of updating our affordable housing plan with a new five-year horizon and are looking to explore strategies to continue our success. One piece of good news is that the town recently negotiated a $5 million grant of housing loan fund monies from our UNC-Health partners. Using this money to seed a housing fund (that will leverage contributions from others) will provide a valuable additional source of funding to realize our affordable housing mission.
We’re working with UNC and UNC-Health in other ways. We’re building on the successes like the Northside Neighborhood Initiative. We’ve conducted the first joint housing study with UNC, and both UNC and UNCHealth have surveyed their employees to assess their needs. As the largest employers in town, they have a vested interest in helping us address housing needs, and their partnership will be essential to achieve the kind of robust affordability success we’re striving for.
Catherine Fray: Yes: Affordable housing needs consistent strong support in our budget year in and year out to progress. To me there is no better metric to tie our affordable housing budget to than the collective housing wealth of Carrboro.
Jeffrey Hoagland: No: thowing money at a problem, especally thru government, vary rarely results in the problem getting fixed, but it does give money to groups that will waste it, since the group was usually friends with the government that gives out the money
Erik Valera: Yes: I support a $.02 property tax rate to close the affordable housing fund. For all the reasons we are not meeting our affordable housing goals, and to an affordable housing fund to those who are out of reach for a downpayment on a home.
Will you support a new bond for affordable housing within the next two years? Why or why not?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: Yes.
Jess Anderson: Yes: I'm hopeful we can float several bonds in the next two years, but our debt capacity will dictate this answer. We're still working out our 5-year budget strategy, and after that we'll know when we'll be able to support new bonds.
Renuka Soll: No: The next bond that I would like to see is for parks. Right now, the parks department has over 70 parks projects needing at least $25 million to build or repair. Over 90% of these projects have been in the queue for over 5 years. Most of these projects are just to keep our facilities safe. Chapel Hill spends $3.59/person on parks where the median spent by our neighbors is $19.30/person. No one spends lower and our parks show it. I do think that we need to have affordable housing and that it needs to be a priority, but I think that our parks are in such a mess that the next bond should be for parks.
Barbara Foushee: Yes: We need a dedicated and sustained effort to get the affordable housing stock that is needed in our community.
Adam Searing: No: With our parking garage construction mistakes costing us another $9 million in debt (now up to $48 million), using bonds for predictable expenses like replacing our first responder radios, and the unsecured loan of $8 million we took out for new buses this year, we have enormous amounts of debt for a town of 60,000 people. I do not believe the time is right for a bond for any purpose until we get a handle on our budget and current debt. Finally, it is now Town of Chapel Hill official policy that money raised from voter-approved bonds used to purchase land for a purpose like affordable housing or green space preservation is no longer a guarantee that the land will be used for that purpose. We cannot break our promises to voters who thought they were voting for bonds and higher taxes for one thing and then use the land purchased for something else. We have to rebuild our voters' trust before we issue more bonds.
Elizabeth Sharp: See the above. [referencing answer to previous question]
Melissa McCullough: Yes: Again, this is something I would like to consider but would want to make sure that the burden of paying for the bond would fall on those who can best afford it, and not the least. In addition, any new bond monies should not be used to justify less spending of existing funds, but should be in addition.
Jason Merrill: Yes: See answer #1
Jon Mitchell: I'm open to it. I will abstain from making promises about specific budget allocations until I have been fully briefed on the budget.
Eliazar Posada: Yes.
Theodore Nollert: Yes: It's important that we expand supply of market housing to address the need for 80% AMI+; this frees up our subsidies to focus on 60% AMI and below. We still have severe needs in that category that require more funding to address.
Amy Ryan: Yes: Affordable housing bonds provided a large amount of the funding that helped us make significant progress in preserving/producing affordable housing in Chapel Hill. Our most recent bond ($10 million) has now been allocated, and it’s time for us to think about our next five-year housing strategy and how bond funding can support it.
I’ve already requested that Council and staff start talking about our next round of bond funds as part of spring 2024 one- and five-year budget work so we can plan for this next important round of housing funding.
Catherine Fray: Yes: In addition to consistent budgetary support, we also need to give our town's affordable housing programs a funding "boost" to help recover from years of slow progress. While I prefer a dedicated percent of tax, both methods are helpful.
Jeffrey Hoagland: No: money laundering thru the government is still money laundering in my opinion
Erik Valera: Yes: In 2018, Chapel Hill voters approved a $10 million affordable housing bond to develop and preserve affordable housing units. However, we need to increase the supply of housing to support those earning 80% AMI. I would support efforts to update existing units, and fund new construction. I would lend my support to initiating a bond referendum for a new bond to accelerate our affordable housing goals.
Do you support building affordable housing for people earning 30% AMI or below on the Greene Tract? Why or why not?
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: Yes.
Jess Anderson: Yes: Absolutely. This planning has been going on in good faith with the Rogers Road neighbors for many years. We need to ensure that residents of this historically Black neighborhood can live there and move their extended families back. We've worked hard for a full environmental assessment to make sure we're preserving the right acreage and allocating the best locations for housing development and other necessary amenities.
Renuka Soll: Yes: i do support it, but I want to do whatever the Rogers Rd community wants to do. I would like to build the type of housing over there that they desire.
Barbara Foushee: Yes: This is a great place to do it since the land is readily available.
Adam Searing: Yes: Substantial portions of the Greene Tract's 160 acres have been dedicated to affordable housing and I support building housing there for those earning below 30% AMI. The only remaining issue at the Greene Tract is whether or not the land dedicated as a "preserve" where roads, utility lines, retention ponds and all the supporting infrastructure for development can apparently be run will actually be a great green space and park that the community can enjoy or whether this forest will in reality all be developed.
Elizabeth Sharp: Yes: It has historically been the greater community's desire to see a portion of the Greene Tract developed into low density affordable housing, and the rest preserved as greenspace. I would support responsible development of quality affordable homes, but not the full-scale development of the Greene Tract into market rate apartments.
Melissa McCullough: Yes: Building affordable housing on land the Town already owns means more housing can be built with the same amount of funds. There will be a hub of activity there, if built according to discussions, with some small businesses, some multifamily and bus access nearby… it would be ideal for those whose family or church community are already living there.
Jason Merrill: Yes: Absolutely! I am an avid mountain biker and we have incredible access to forests and trails within our community (we currently have well over 100 miles of singletrack trails that are accessible by bike from downtown). Trail access is one of the features that has kept me planted here for the last 22 years, but it is a luxury, not a necessity. Affordable housing is a necessity, so if you present me with a choice between affordable housing or a luxury, I am going to pick affordable housing every single time!
Jon Mitchell: Yes: In my view, this would honor the spirit of "Mapping Our Community's Future," particularly given that the Neville Tract is less suitable for development than previously understood.
Eliazar Posada: Yes.
Theodore Nollert: Yes: The Greene tract should connect Purefoy and Weaver Dairy Rd. Extension, at a minimum by multi-use path/greenway, as part of the Town's connectivity plan. That makes it an ideal place for dense mixed-use development and affordable housing. It would be great if this looked like the model provided by the St. Paul AME Village that we recently recommended to Council from the Planning Commission.
Amy Ryan: Yes: I support building housing for people making 30% AMI wherever we can. Planning at the Greene tract is still in early stages – we’ll be balancing the desire to get as much affordable housing as we can (the higher the AMI, the smaller the subsidy per unit and the more we can build) with the desire to serve the most heavily impacted by the affordability crisis (we’ll serve people with the most need, but because of larger subsidy required, that might mean fewer units overall). The discussion of how best to optimize the AMI mix to meet the community’s vision will be an important part of planning for this piece of land.
Fortunately, we have a great housing staff, and they’ll be working with the community and building on years of planning work to guide us toward the best solution for the Greene tract.
Catherine Fray: Yes: Affordable housing has been part of the plan for the Greene Tract from the beginning. It is one of the town's largest opportunities to make good on a decade of promises.
Jeffrey Hoagland: No: trapping people in "walkablilty settlements" is not helping them
Erik Valera: Yes: While I recognize the urgent need for affordable housing, especially for those earning 30% AMI or below, it is important to respect the ecological significance of this land. That said, using the connected communities framework I would support housing models, similar to the planned St. Paul’s Village, or other such models that provide residents with spaces for recreation and other amenities.
Do you support building affordable housing for people earning 30% AMI or below on the former American Legion Property? Why or why not? (Town of Chapel Hill candidates only)
Breckany Teal Eckhardt: No: Environmental, racial, and social justice are interconnected. Low income populations also deserve access to greenspace. It was unnecessary to destroy the affordable housing that the town council allowed the last 2 years. There are empty office spaces across the street and within a mile that would be perfect for these units. Deer, fish, and wildlife need the pond. The town council wants to drain the pond and put a fence around the small area left which is no use to any wildlife along with people who raft, fish, and walk their animals around it. All people need to be within a 15 minute walk of a park, and this is the only park with a pond. With the thousands of people added to this area, we need community spaces. With better planning, we can produce housing AND quality of life. Keep our pond, keep our parks, build rooftop gardens, solar panels, and progress with green planning. This creates jobs, equity, character, increases tax dollars with added tourism and visitors. Let's build community, not concrete.
Jess Anderson: Yes: I fully support building a range of affordable housing options, including those for people with 30% AMI and below, where possible at the American Legion. I believe the outcome we reached for the property (building affordable housing on the frontage, not selling off any town-owned land AND having a fantastic park behind) was a good one. It shows we can meet multiple community needs at the same time.
Renuka Soll: No: I believe that we can have both affordable housing and parks. One shouldn't be pitted against the other. The east part of town is one place where no large park exists, yet there exists a lot of dense housing over there. I would like to see the whole property be a park, and I believe that we can still create affordable housing in ways that we know works in that area as well as throughout town.
Adam Searing: No: I've answered this question above. With thousands of new residents in the area, including many in affordable housing, I do not support our current plan to take the best 25% of Legion Park, including the fishing pond, fields and entrances for development. Families and kids in the Legion area deserve just as large and just as nice a park as exists in our other neighborhoods in Chapel Hill like at Southern Village, Meadowmont, Cedar Falls and Homestead. The current plan has Legion Park much smaller than any of these other parks and has much of the land reserved for a park either in swamp/wetland or on unbuildable steep slopes. The current plan will only highlight the inequities in how we deliver parks, green space and open space in Chapel Hill where some areas enjoy large parks, trails and green space and others with more modest homes and apartments are left behind.
Elizabeth Sharp: No: Legion Park needs to be reserved for greenspace/park use for the hundreds of residences already built around it. It is the only remaining public greenspace on that side of Chapel Hill, and access to walkable outdoor amenities is crucial to quality of life for all, in particular those living in denser housing that lacks private yards, etc.
Melissa McCullough: Yes: As with the above, building on town-owned land means more housing for the money. And that will be a great spot for transit or bike accessibility, and they will have a great park adjacent!
Jon Mitchell: Yes: In December 2022, the Town Council voted to designate 8-9 acres of this 36-acre property for affordable housing. In May 2023, the Council authorized the Town Manager to look for an affordable housing development partner. I intend to honor this decision of the current Town Council.
Theodore Nollert: Yes: Same reason that I support 30% AMI housing on the Greene tract. It has access to town by transit, is a good location for density, can incorporate green space as an amenity for residents and visitors, and satisfies a critical need in the community.
Amy Ryan: Yes: See my previous answer. We always want to try to meet the needs of residents at our lowest AMIs and that will be part of the robust discussion to balance the vision for the site, housing needs, and fiscal realities.
One great feature of the Legion site is that it’s located directly adjacent to transit, jobs, shopping, and future park space. This means it will likely score very well for federal tax credit financing (which will help fund more units for lower AMI residents). It also means that it will be ideally positioned to meet not just the housing needs of individuals who earn 30% AMI or below, but their other needs as well, making it easier to get to work, run errands, get around town, and enjoy outdoor recreation, especially for those residents with disabilities or who don’t drive or have a car.
Jeffrey Hoagland: No: government can not fix housing prices by increasing density, otherwise new york city would be the cheaper place to live in the country
Erik Valera: Yes: The Town owned American Legion Property, with its proximity to transit and amenities, presents a unique opportunity. However, critics of using this land to build subsidized affordable housing advocate to preserve it as open park space. I support a mixed use development that incorporates gathering spaces and connects to a network of everywhere to everywhere greenways. I would prefer the American Legion Property be developed before cutting into the Green Tract.