2019 Election

Affordable housing is top of mind for Pittsboro commissioner candidates

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 10/11/19

PITTSBORO — On questionnaires filled out for the News + Record, five of the seven candidates for the Pittsboro Town Board of Commissioners listed affordable housing or improving the town’s …

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2019 Election

Affordable housing is top of mind for Pittsboro commissioner candidates

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Posted

PITTSBORO — On questionnaires filled out for the News + Record, five of the seven candidates for the Pittsboro Town Board of Commissioners listed affordable housing or improving the town’s affordable housing stock as their No. 1 goal or area of improvement for the town.

And the other two are well aware that it’s a big deal.

As Pittsboro continues to grow, having places for people to live is a vital part of keeping the community running, the candidates say, and they have various ideas and thoughts about how to approach it.

Incumbent commissioner Jay Farrell, who is seeking his third term in office, pointed to the work of the town’s affordable housing task force — which has been chaired by incoming mayor Jim Nass.

“We all look forward to hearing this report,” Farrell said. “After the review from our committee I feel we will have better understanding on how the town, community, county, Chatham Park and all other stakeholders can work together to provide  housing to all.”

More recently, Chatham Park has been waiting on the town to put together an affordable housing ordinance to work off of. Developers have promised to set aside 1 percent of all housing units to meet “affordable housing criteria,” set aside a minimum of 100 of those units for single-family detached dwellings and contribute $100 per residential dwelling unit built into an Affordable Housing Fund.

The other incumbent running this year, John Bonitz, said developments like Chatham Park “worsen the problem” of a lack of affordable housing in Pittsboro “by building higher-priced housing which creates demand for lower-wage service jobs,” despite the development’s pledge to support affordable housing.

“We must find creative ways to partner to create more new affordable housing stock and rentals,” he said.

Most of the commissioners’ ideas are similar. They point to the lack of housing for professions like nurses, first responders and teachers as a hamper on the economy and the community.

“I find it sad that most of our police, fire and rescue can not afford to live in the county,” said candidate Pam Cash-Roper. “During the county fair, I spoke with four officers, none of which live in Chatham and cost plays a major factor. We need to have single-family homes and more apartment complexes for the working class.”

Candidates like Kyle Shipp, a member of the county’s affordable housing advisory committee, and Bridget Perry point to financial incentives as a good way to get developers to invest in affordable homes.

“It needs to be a carrot approach vs. a stick approach for legal and practical reasons,” Shipp said. “We can offer incentives for developers to make it a win-win to develop affordable housing.”

Perry added that “encouraging developers to integrate affordable homes into their neighborhoods, with incentives such as increasing the density allocation for a portion of the neighborhood,” will be crucial to not “forget the citizens who live here at present” as growth comes.

Some candidates have even more specific ideas. Lonnie West, who works in the real estate field, said he would push for at least 100 new or adapted rental residences with rent under $1,000 per month for individuals earning 50 percent of the area median income.

Most of the candidates said they’d like to see investment in homes already built that are in need of repair.

“I would expand the town’s partnerships with housing organizations and the county,” said candidate Heather Johnson. “In terms of affordable housing solutions, nothing would be off the table as long as we have the research to support that it works.”

Early voting for the Town of Pittsboro elections kicks off at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16 and ends at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1. For a full schedule of early voting dates and times, visit chathamnc.org/government/departments-programs/board-of-elections/2018-election-information-notices. Election Day is November 5.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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