County committee hopes sales tax will go to affordable housing

Posted 8/9/19

The county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee continues to drive Chatham’s efforts in development for affordable, workforce housing — a commodity that very much in need.

As Chatham …

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County committee hopes sales tax will go to affordable housing

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Posted

The county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee continues to drive Chatham’s efforts in development for affordable, workforce housing — a commodity that very much in need.

As Chatham County grows, housing costs have risen dramatically. Home prices increased by 10.5 percent from 2017-2018, according to Metrostudy Raleigh-Durham. Supplies of affordable homes are in short supply compared to demand with a good portion of that affordable housing stock considered of poor quality, according to the Affordable Rental Housing Report produced by the Triangle J Council of Governments for Chatham County. What this means is that residents of Chatham County who make less than 80 percent of the area median income, which is about $58,000 a year, are finding it more and more difficult to find housing in the county.

Last year the Chatham County Board of Commissioners created the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, prompted by the recommendation of the temporary Affordable Housing Task Force that was created to review affordable housing specific to rental properties. The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee’s mission is to review and make recommendations for the enactment of recommendations made in the task force’s final report as well as consider future concerns in affordable housing. The group meets monthly at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center, and met last Thursday to discuss progress and future goals.

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners created a $200,000 housing trust fund in the budget and the committee was tasked to develop guidelines and recommendations for how that money could be used. In addition, they worked on a location policy for affordable housing to ensure that residences are not concentrated in specific areas and are not far from resources such as stores, schools, and transportation. They are now working to finalize the guidelines for the board’s approval for the housing trust fund’s first full year.

At Thursday’s meeting, the committee also brainstormed for an upcoming presentation to the board of commissioners with regard to the sales tax proposal. For several months, the commission board has been discussing potentially adding a 1/4-cent sales tax referendum to next year’s county ballot. In their deliberations, the board has asked for more information on affordable housing, education expenses, land banking, broadband and agriculture as possible categories for any funds the sales tax may generate.

The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, along with its staff liaison Stephanie Watkins-Cruz, policy analyst for Chatham County, have been working to create a presentation that they hope will convince the board to appropriate those funds, if passed by voters, to affordable housing. Watkins-Cruz noted during the meeting that the committee has set a goal of 100 new affordable housing units per year. She notes that the housing trust fund, when initially created, only had enough financial support for one project, the Henry Siler School renovation in Siler City.

That project was approved late last year by the board of commissioners. The land was owned by the county, which it gave to the developer Third Wave LLC, a company that specializes in developing affordable housing. The remaining funds were used to pay application fees and third party costs for the application for the Low Income Tax Housing Credits which is estimated to be around $15,000. Third Wave was also awarded a $120,000 loan from the county if the project is approved for the credits. That project is estimated to create 34 units of one and two bedrooms each with a target market for residents who make at least 30 percent of the area median income.

In order to reach the goal of 100 new units as well as support other affordable housing programs such as emergency housing assistance and a temporary housing shelter, the group believes that the potential $1.6 million in revenue the sales tax may generate would be paramount. Watkins-Cruz notes that, based on the investment for the Henry Siler School project, the housing trust fund would need to be a little over $1 million each year. In addition, the dedicated revenue source would ensure stability in the fund.

The anticipated date for the presentation will be September 16 at the Chatham County Board of Commissioners regular board meeting.

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

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