Housing affordability is a growing challenge for communities across the country—including right here in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The average home price in Chapel Hill is among the highest in North Carolina at $487,000, compared with average home prices of $359,000 in Carrboro, $332,000 in Durham and $372,000 in Raleigh. Our apartments are also among the most expensive in the state, placing an extra burden on service workers, students, and families who increasingly find it difficult to afford to live here.
Increasingly, our community is becoming an enclave for only the wealthiest among us, which is in conflict with our community values of diversity and inclusion. A recent study commissioned by the town and UNC-Chapel Hill found that we need to add almost 500 units of housing every year just to keep up with job growth. If we fail to meet this challenge, our economy will stagnate due to the high cost of housing. Our businesses that serve middle-income families will close, and our quality of life will depend on service workers driving an hour or more each day to get here.
For our community to live up to its progressive values, we need to improve housing affordability for people at all income levels.
Policy Ideas + Solutions
Our housing costs are high for a number of reasons, but one critical reason is that we have a housing shortage in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. More people want to live here than there is housing for them. Our local governments need to implement policies to make it easier to add more housing so that people from all walks of life who contribute to the vibrancy of our community can live here and make our community an even better place to live.
Providing affordable housing for those who need it the most is also a critical policy goal our elected officials must work toward. Both Carrboro and Chapel Hill have or are working on affordable housing strategies to address this need. NEXT believes that the best strategy to address this need is to add new subsidized housing alongside new market-rate housing to address all levels of our housing affordability crisis.
Our towns should take the lead on planning for growth, rather than leaving critical decisions to developers who think primarily about short-term solutions. Both Chapel Hill and Carrboro should consider the economic, ecological, and diversity costs of zoning that only permits single-family homes to be built, and help guide the creation of more mixed-use neighborhoods like those that already exist near our downtowns.
Most importantly, we need to prioritize the future of our communities, not our past. We must build enough housing to retain our reputation as a community where people from all backgrounds can flourish.