84-unit affordable housing community considered

Posted 5/22/20

The Siler City Board of Commissioners reviewed on Monday a proposed 84-unit affordable housing community to be located near Chatham Hospital.

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84-unit affordable housing community considered

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SILER CITY — The Siler City Board of Commissioners reviewed on Monday a proposed 84-unit affordable housing community to be located near Chatham Hospital.

The project, estimated to cost about $10.5 million, will include four multi-family buildings with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as a community center, recreation areas and a community garden for the residents. Wallick Asset Management, a company that specializes in affordable housing, is hoping to receive $10 million in federal low-income tax credits for the community.

The goal of the housing community is to provide residences for those families who earn 30-80 percent of the area’s median income of $70,000 — or families making between $21,000 and $56,000 a year.

According to Stephanie Watkins-Cruz, a policy analyst with the Chatham County Manager’s Office who has been working with the developer, this type of affordable housing project, with a diversity of income ranges, is “extremely important.” Typically, housing that serves the lowest ends of the income spectrum require a lot of subsidies, but by mixing the income levels, the community will be able to provide homes for the most needy and balance that investment by allowing other workforce tenants to qualify.

In January, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved an $85,000 low-interest loan for Wallick from the county’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund after being chosen by the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.

Chatham County Assistant County Manager Bryan Thompson, who has also been working with Wallick, reiterated Cruz’ point.

“It’s an income-leveling project,” said Thompson, who preceded current Siler CityTown Manager Roy Lynch in that position. “With income leveling, that allows for greater access to allow those with higher incomes so those with lower incomes have [an opportunity for housing]. It’s a nice mix of income so you’re not focusing on poverty.”

Wallick Asset Management proposed constructing the community in phases, which would allow them to begin welcoming tenants as the phases progress. The first phase would be to construct the clubhouse, with each subsequent phase including one of the four residential buildings.

During Monday’s public hearing on the community, Siler City resident S.T. Phillips raised concerns about the impact of this type of housing, specifically in terms of crime rate and how the community is maintained over time. Wallick representative Jennifer Lampman noted the company is “committed to affordable housing on a long-term basis” where it holds it assets “indefinitely.”

“I think some of the concerns that are brought up are because of some of older (U.S. Dept. of) Housing and Urban Development projects that have had a tougher reputation over the years,” Lampman said. “The low income tax credit allows us to hit a broader range of families. They are working. They have to have jobs. I can’t speak to that study [referenced by Phillips], I can only speak to our own integrity.”

Commissioner Bill Haiges raised a concern about increased traffic around Campus Drive, where the community is to be located, as a result of the additional residents. The board discussed generally the process of requesting the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, which maintains the surrounding roadways, to install street lights. Lampman agreed to work with the town staff and NCDOT to encourage the department to consider such an installation.

The board will revisit the matter at its first regular board meeting in June.

Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.


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