VIRGINIA BRIDGES, firstname.lastname@example.org; 919-829-8924
DURHAM — Members of Durham Congregations Associations and Neighborhoods (Durham CAN) called on city leaders Tuesday to move forward with a plan for affordable housing on city property next to the downtown bus hub.
Since 2000, development representing more than $1.3 billion of public and private investment has been built or started in downtown Durham, said Herbert Davis, senior pastor at Nehemiah Christian Church downtown.
“But not one home has been added there for low-income workers and transit users,” Davis said.
The Durham CAN press conference at Monument of Faith Church came as the City Council plans to consider Thursday whether to allow a joint-venture to build affordable housing on a 1.9 acre, L-shaped lot next to the Durham Station Transportation Center at Jackson and Willard streets.
City Manager Tom Bonfield wants the City Council to confirm it wants to move forward, considering that only one proposal was submitted and other firms have expressed interest in developing on the site.
The city sought qualifications from interested developers last year for a mixed-use proposal with 80 percent of the housing units going to families making less than 60 percent of the area median income.
The city heard from one joint venture between Durham-based Self-Help Ventures Fund and Raleigh-based affordable housing developer DHIC. A city evaluation team gave the venture 39.5 out of a possible 100 points.
Self-Help and DHIC are two national known leaders in community development, said Selina Mack, executive director of nonprofit Durham Community Land Trustees.
Self-Help has financed and renovated, redeveloped key projects across the Bull City and Greensboro, she said at Tuesday’s press conference. DHIC is the Triangle’s most experienced affordable housing builder, she said
The city’s request for qualifications was forwarded to the top 50 affordable housing developers in the U.S. The city also advertised in other publications. Feedback indicated that the site’s location, size and shape presented financing and development challenges.
But Durham CAN representatives said the joint-venture partners are local and proven.
“They are aware of the challenges, they are not coming in blind, and they see potential,” Davis said.
The city has three options:
It can evaluate the Self-Help-DHIC proposal further and draft a pre-development agreement.
It can remove the affordable housing requirement from the request for qualifications and seek additional responses for a residential development
It can seek mixed-use proposals for the sale of the property at its $2.9 million market value and possibly use that money for an affordable housing on a less complex site.
Councilman Steve Schewel supports the current proposal.
“We all know Self-Help’s ability to get difficult construction projects done here in Durham,” Schewel wrote in an email to the council. “And DHIC is, to my knowledge, the pre-eminent affordable housing developer in the state of North Carolina with many successful, complicated projects under its belt. I think this is a great partnership that can serve us well.”