Chapel Hill 2020, the Town’s comprehensive plan, stresses the need to minimize sprawl, support comprehensive public transit, broaden our housing options, attract and support successful businesses, and preserve established neighborhoods and the quality of life we all enjoy. These are goals that I have championed throughout my service on the Council, and my record demonstrates an ability to achieve results.
In 2016 I’m working especially hard to advance the following goals:
1. Increase the supply of affordable housing.
In March 2014, the Council adopted an affordable rental strategy, an outcome of a committee that I co-chaired. The strategy recommends setting aside recurring funds for affordable housing. As a result of effective community advocacy, beginning in 2014-15, the adopted budget annually allocates roughly 1 percent of the tax dollar–around $700,000–to affordable housing.
The first concrete outcome of the affordable rental strategy is a low-income tax credit housing project to be built by DHIC of Raleigh on a parcel of town-owned land, for which DHIC secured very competitive tax credits in August 2015. This funding is for Phase 1 of the project, Greenfield Place, 80 units of housing for families and individuals making up to 60 percent of the area median income. (Chapel Hill’s AMI for a family of four is $67,000.) In January 2016, DHIC began the process of applying for a second round of tax credit financing for Phase 2, Greenfield Commons, 69 units that will be age-restricted to those over 55.
Representing the Council on the board of the Community Home Trust and the leadership team of the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, and as liaison to the Council’s Housing Advisory Board, I’m actively involved in refining and implementing our affordable housing strategies. These strategies extend to what is sometimes, but problematically, called “workforce” (non subsidized low-income) housing.
2. Reduce barriers to reentry.
One in five adults in North Carolina has a criminal record. Chapel Hill is not immune from the effects of unnecessarily harsh barriers complicating these citizens’ reentry into productive society.
Following upon the Town’s decision in 2012 to “ban the box” (where criminal records are indicated) on initial job applications, other steps are critical to helping people overcome their histories. As a next step, and with the advocacy of the North Carolina Justice Center and local public defenders, the Town has revised its overly restrictive policies regarding public housing admissions and evictions. And in November 2015, the Town revised its hiring policies to make it clear that the background check does not occur until after an applicant has been recommended for a position, and that the potential employee has an opportunity to put the criminal history in context. Further work is in progress to encourage local businesses to follow these practices.
3. Promote downtown Chapel Hill as a signature cultural arts destination, and more.
We can do more to capitalize on downtown Chapel Hill’s rich cultural assets, from the thriving restaurant district on West Franklin to the public space at 140 West to the Ackland’s presence at Franklin and Rosemary to the UNC campus.
Downtown Imagined has catalyzed an idea the community has long held: a two-street downtown. Together, Franklin and Rosemary can become a revitalized and distinctive destination. Existing cultural assets on campus and downtown have been identified and mapped. The next steps involve bringing it all together to create an implementable vision for our downtown as a cultural arts destination. The University of North Carolina, with its front door on Franklin Street, is our key partner.
And the arts promise more than economic impact. My vision for the arts in Chapel Hill extends to expanding its role to connecting and fostering healthy neighborhoods and strong communities. The potential of the arts to build bridges and to increase participation in civic life is something we have not fully tapped. The Public Arts Commission, to which I am Council liaison, is drafting an Arts Plan this spring, to be presented to Council before the end of June. Now is the time to make our voices heard on the breadth and depth of our commitment to this important work.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done together since my first election in 2003 to build a healthy and vibrant Chapel Hill. I want to foster the things we love about our community while embracing change thoughtfully and carefully. As we continue this work together, please be in touch with your own ideas. Thank you for the privilege of serving you.
In February 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Chapel Hill one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations.
It was Sally’s honor to accept the award for the Town.