Chapel Hill Town Council Candidates Speak on Issues of Affordable Housing and Transportation

Fall is in the air, and it’s time for municipal elections!  On November 7, Chapel Hill registered voters will cast their ballots for candidates seeking four available Town Council seats.  The Chapel Hill Town Council is comprised of eight members who serve four-year terms.

Recently, the local political blog OrangePolitics hosted a live online forum for the seven Town Council candidates.  Participants included Allen Buansi, Hongbin Gu, Ed Harrison, Maria Palmer, Rachel Schaevitz, and Karen Stegman.  Carl Schuler was unable to participate.

Questions from the live forum included several planning challenges that Chapel Hill currently faces.  Affordable housing was a key concern, and candidates had varying perspectives on how that priority can best be achieved.  Most candidates highlighted the need to rigorously address affordable housing and provide guidelines for infill development in the the update of the Land Use Management Ordinance.  

Most of Chapel Hill’s affordable housing takes the form of mobile homes. The land upon which these home are sited is often rented or leased by the residents. But, as property values in the area increase, the land is also an attractive purchasing option for land developers. Understanding the housing needs of lower income individuals will require policy solutions informed by extensive outreach to lower income communities and partnership with organizations that have assisted in affordable housing efforts in the past.  

Additionally, while the construction of accessory dwelling units is permitted in Chapel Hill, candidates disagreed on the guidelines and incentives for the creation of this small-scale infill housing.  

Candidates also expressed differing opinions about the merits of the Durham-Orange Light Rail Project in its current form, but shared a commitment to ensure that the stations in Chapel Hill are developed to their fullest potential in terms of equity and economic development.  In particular, the development of Gateway Station will provide opportunities to develop affordable housing, diversify the tax base through retail and office opportunities, and create important bicycle and pedestrian connections.  Concerns among the candidates included resolving stormwater challenges on the site and ensuring mixed income housing is close enough to the station to provide easy access to the light rail.  

0509_map_DOLRT-withNCCU-blue_160900-1A map of the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail route. Photo Credit: GoTriangle.

Nine questions in total were asked during the live forum, and responses can be read in full here.   

Remember to cast your vote on November 7!

About the Author: Catherine Peele is a second year Master’s of City and Regional Planning candidate from Albemarle, North Carolina. Her planning interests include transportation project prioritization methods and freight mobility.  Outside of planning, Catherine enjoys exploring local parks and museums, supporting refugee resettlement efforts in the Triangle, perfecting classic Southern dishes and trying new recipes, and spending time with her two nieces.

Featured image: A local Orange County election site. Photo Credit: Amy Townsend/WUNC