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The Herald Sun – New apartments in downtown Durham will be affordable for hundreds of people
If you make around $38,000 or less, you could soon be able to live near a planned light rail stop in downtown Durham.
The Durham County commissioners agreed Tuesday night to put affordable and market-rate apartments on county land on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street.
“You have the opportunity to make sure that people of color believe they belong a little bit more downtown,” Pastor Psiyina Davis of Nehemiah Christian Center and Durham CAN told the commissioners before their vote.
“Without your help, downtown will continue to be more white and affluent,” she said.
Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) has pushed city and county leaders for years to use downtown land for affordable housing, especially near proposed light-rail stops.
The commissioners voted unanimously for the plan.
The county owns what are now two big surface parking lots on the 300 and 500 blocks. While both sites will include parking decks for county employees, the plan approved Tuesday also includes 437 apartments between them, with 277 to be designated affordable for those who make 80 percent or less of the area median income.
Eighty percent of area median income for Durham is $37,750 for one person, $43,150 for two people and $53,900 for a four-person household.
Shane Ryan of the Durham branch of the Democratic Socialists of America said that in a “time of rapid gentrification in Durham,” the new housing represented a chance for county leaders to do something positive.
Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said the location close to the planned Dillard Street light rail stop will also give future residents easy access to N.C. Central University, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill.
The Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit and Durham CAN spent months — and in some cases years — pushing the county to redevelop the land into more than just parking.
Jim Svara spoke on behalf of both groups Tuesday night. He called it a “momentous contribution to downtown” that would expand commercial activity and increase vibrancy on East Main Street.
“The 277 households in Durham will have living costs that are truly affordable,” Svara said.
The parking lots are near the Durham County Human Services building, the new Durham Police Department headquarters, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church and Oldham Towers and Liberty Street public housing neighborhoods.
The Rev. Mindy Douglas, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, said the 300 block lot is between First Presbyterian and St. Philip’s and that both churches have wanted affordable housing there since 2015.
The development plan will “continue to make downtown East Main an inclusive, welcoming community,” Douglas said.
Commissioner James Hill called it housing for the working class.
“The people that take care of us downtown should also be able to afford to live downtown,” he said. “I look forward to seeing our new neighbors in downtown Durham.”
Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs said she expects the potential new residents to be first responders, librarians and social workers as well as those who use housing vouchers.
Plans were designed and researched by the Development Finance Initiative of the UNC School of Government. Developer plans will be accepted starting in January, and one picked by late spring. The first of the projects could break ground in late 2020.
Indy Week – Durham Commissioners Will Soon Decide How Much Affordable Housing to Put on Two Downtown Sites
In weighing their options for how to redevelop two county-owned parking lots on Main Street, county commissioners are leaning toward a plan that would include 277 units of affordable housing.
Commissioners discussed the two options for redeveloping lots on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street during a work session Monday morning.
Plan A includes a total of 492 residential units, 180 of which would be affordable to households earning 30 to 80 percent of the area median income; 55,500-square-feet of commercial space and as many as 1,970 parking spaces across both sites. In that concept, the affordable housing units would cost the county about $4 million to $5 million.
Plan B includes 437 residential units, 277 of which would be affordable to housing earning 30 to 80 percent of the area median income; 34,700-square-feet of commercial space; and as many as 1,933 parking spaces across the two properties. Affordable housing under plan B would require a county subsidy of about $8 to $9 million.
(Thirty percent of the area median income is about $22,000 for a family of four. Eighty percent is about $58,000).
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With the disclaimer that they want to hear public input at the November 13 meeting where they are expected to vote on the matter, four of five commissioners stated their support for plan B. The fifth — commissioner Brenda Howerton — didn’t voice support or opposition.
The affordable housing costs come on top of what it would cost to build parking decks on both sites. Doug Carter, with DEC Associates and a financial adviser on the project, said the county would issue long-term debt to build the decks, and that’s already been factored into future debt modeling.
“Our firm believes the private development plan is sound, that the addition of housing (especially affordable) is highly warranted and the estimated County cost is currently affordable,” Carter said in his presentation to the board.
Typically, said Sarah Odio, project manager with the University of North Carolina School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative, developments built with tax credits, like these would be, are affordable for fifteen to thirty years, at which point they need renovations – and likely more tax credits in order to make them. A ground lease could ensure the housing remains affordable into the future, she said.
Once a plan is selected, the county will get to work writing a solicitation for development partners and the criteria by which is will select one or more development partners.
Peri Manns, deputy director of the county’s Engineering and Environmental Services department, said the work would likely happen in phases because county employees and the public use both parking lots. Odio said “optimistically” ground could be broken two years from now.
The county aims to get the solicitation out in January, with an April deadline for developers to apply, and partner selection in summer 2019.
The Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit and Durham CAN — which have been successful advocates for affordable housing in Durham — support plan B because it includes more affordable housing, more units available to lower incomes, and more units that can house families. A representative from the local Democratic Socialists of America branch also spoke in support of that option during Monday’s meeting.
Public input so far shows a preference for the plan also favored by commissioners.
Jim Svara, with the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit, analyzed the results of surveys completed online or during three public input meetings about the proposals. Out of 129 surveys, 71 percent preferred plan B.
Commissioner Heidi Carter says the board is undertaking “what feels like a really earthshaking decision for our community.” Either project would significantly increase housing available to low-wealth families downtown and along the planned Durham-Orange Light Rail line.
Currently, nearly six hundred people live in Durham Housing Authority properties in the downtown area, although the agency is planning a full-scale redevelopment that will likely increase the number of downtown units.
A city-backed project at the intersection of Jackson and Willard streets will include eighty-two units of affordable housing. The City Council has also said affordable housing is its top priority for how the current Durham Police Department property should be used when the agency finishes moving into its new headquarters.
The vote is set to be held during the county commissioners’ November 13 meeting, which begins at seven p.m.