There is a severe lack of high-quality affordable rental housing in and around Chapel Hill. Around 49% of households in Chapel Hill are renter households. Of those households, about 58% are “rent burdened,” meaning they pay more than 30% of their income towards rent, making it difficult to pay for other necessary items. Among households earning less than 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI), 91% are rent burdened.
Because of high barriers to entry (long municipal approvals, NIMBYism, high land prices, among others), very few truly affordable communities have been constructed in Chapel Hill. Affordable housing is considered housing that primarily serves residents earning 60% of the AMI or less and is maintained as affordable for at least 30 years. Other communities in the Triangle have responded by recognizing the lack of affordable housing and the social impact this causes in their communities, and by consistently supporting and approving the construction of hundreds of new affordable housing units annually. Chapel Hill is hoping to do the same by supporting projects like the one proposed at Jay Street.
In November 2019 Town Council authorized the Town Manager to identify a development partner for the Jay Street site and begin negotiating a development contract. The following month, staff issued a Request for Qualifications (Bid Q20-100) for affordable housing development services. Six development teams submitted responses and after a preliminary review, staff selected four of those teams for further consideration. An inter-departmental evaluation team assessed the remaining proposals and served on an interview panel for each of the four developer candidates.
Ultimately, the evaluation team’s partner selection was informed by the RFQ responses, the interview, communication with external references provided, and a rubric that considered the development team’s qualifications, the development proposal, and financial capacity. The Taft-Mills Group (TMG), including its proposed co-developer Community Home Trust, stood out based on their qualifications, proposal, and financial capacity, and demonstrated the most experience successfully developing comparable affordable housing projects in North Carolina.
Affordable Housing staff recommended the selection of TMG to the Town Manager and Council in July 2020.
Around 49% of households in Chapel Hill are renter households. Of those households, about 58% are “rent burdened,” meaning they pay more than 30% of their income towards rent, making it difficult to pay for other necessary items. To address the gap in available housing for low-income households in Chapel Hill, both rental and homeownership housing is needed.
The cost to construct single family homes in Chapel Hill often exceeds a price point that would be deemed affordable by many. In addition, home ownership often requires significant cash down payments, a monthly mortgage that is higher than alternative rental options and operating expenses like taxes, and insurance. With these added costs, homeownership may not be the best housing option for all households.
The proposed Jay Street development will serve 48 households who will, without a doubt, benefit from having a safe, high-quality, and affordable home in which to reside.
The proposed project includes units that will be affordable primarily to households that make at or below 30% to 80% of Orange County’s Area Median Income (AMI). This means that households earning between $18,600 and $70,560 annually will occupy the units (based on 2021 ACS data). The proposed development will remain affordable for the foreseeable future.
North Carolina state law prohibits the Town from implementing rent control. State law does not allow any county or city to regulate the amount of rent to be charged for private property.
This project is in the very preliminary stages and, as a result, rents are subject to change. However, as presently proposed, rents will likely range from $365 to $1,150 monthly. A mix of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom units will be proposed, and those units will range from approximately 803 to 1,168 square feet.
The proposed entry would provide ingress/egress along the straight section of Jay Street shortly after the curve closest to the cemetery. Vehicular traffic leaving the community would have access to Estes Drive by turning left out of the community and following Village Drive to Estes Drive. Alternatively, a right onto Village Drive (from Jay Street) would provide access to Estes Drive via Umstead Drive.
No ingress/egress will be provided at the dead-end section of Jay Street. Furthermore, the proposed development’s entry point on Jay Street will be designed and constructed based on the Town of Chapel Hill municipal standards.
Yes, a traffic study will be required and is presently being commissioned by the Town of Chapel Hill. The study will assess the potential impact the proposed development will have as it pertains to traffic volume in and around the proposed site. Findings will be shared with the public shortly after the study has been completed.
The Jay Street site is designated medium residential, which is 4-8 dwelling units per acre. At approximately 6 dwelling units per acre, the project as proposed meets the requirements for medium residential.
The Town assembled a Task Force on Strategic Uses of Town Properties in 2017 to conduct an evaluation of Town-owned properties and recommend guidelines to use when considering proposals for the use and/or sale of these properties. The four Town-owned parcels on Jay Street were included in this evaluation. The recommendation for the Jay Street parcels includes developing affordable housing on the smaller parcels and maintaining the larger parcel as open space due to potentially difficult access to the site. The Task Force presented their preliminary recommendations and findings to the Chapel Hill Town Council on June 26, 2017. At that meeting, Council accepted the report, authorized the Town Manager to prepare a report describing how to implement specific recommendations, and dissolved the Task Force.
Based on Council’s priority to develop new affordable housing, an inter-departmental team of Town staff formed a working group in 2018 tasked with identifying properties that would be suitable options for developing affordable housing. The working group used a strategic multi-layered approach to analyze public properties that met the following conditions: at least 3 acres in size, within 100 feet of water and sewer connections, and within the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools District. The team then considered each remaining site’s suitability specifically for affordable housing development by evaluating them based on the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency Low Income Housing Tax Credit program scoring criteria. The Jay Street site met all these criteria and scored well on the tax credit criteria.
The working group’s last point of consideration was to look at existing plans and recommendations for the sites, including the 2017 Town Properties Task Force recommendations. While the Task Force did not initially recommend the site for affordable housing development, additional analysis of the site from the working group, an engineering firm, and developers have shown that there are possibilities to accommodate access concerns that may not have been considered fully at the time of the Task Force’s recommendations.
On June 20, 2018, staff presented their analysis and recommendations to Council, and Council prioritized the sites as affordable housing sites and authorized staff to pursue development of affordable housing on these sites.
Absolutely! It is highly likely that our proposed development will also have residents with children. It is of utmost importance that we provide safe passage for all children who walk to school in the area. Our design team will work closely with town staff and our engineering team to ensure that the proposed development meets or exceeds all measures tied to safe pedestrian passage in and around the community.
The Jay Street site is currently served by the following schools:
- Northside Elementary School
- Smith Middle School
- Chapel Hill High School
According to Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) data for 2020-21, the CHCCS school district is under capacity for all school levels. To assist in predicting changes in future enrollment, the Town coordinates with CHCCS on estimating the number of students a proposed residential development will generate. CHCCS is required to approve a Certificate of Adequate Public Schools (CAPS) before the project can begin construction.
We have paid particular attention to providing sufficient parking on-site as to minimize any negative impact on the surrounding community. The plan that we have provided to the Town of Chapel Hill presently shows 95 spaces for 48 units. This represents just shy of two spaces per residential unit which, based on the many other communities in our portfolio, is sufficient to discourage parking outside of our community. The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency’s standard for parking is 1.75 spaces per unit, which we presently exceed. Also the Town of Chapel Hill’s required parking ratios dictate a minimum of 65 parking spaces for the proposed housing mix, which we also far exceed. If parking from residents outside of our community becomes a problem, which we believe is highly unlikely, the on-site property manager will address the issue accordingly.
Yes, the bus stop on Village Drive is 400 feet (0.075 miles) from the site. This far surpasses the maximum threshold (0.25 miles) used by the North Carolina Finance Agency to score Low Income Housing Tax Credit project applications.
We recognize the uniqueness of the area in which the Jay Street parcel is located. Taft-Mills Group and Community Home Trust take pride in coming up with plans that utilize buffers, tree save measures and low-density design.
The development, as proposed, is approximately 6.5 units per acre which is consistent or slightly less than the density of other communities surrounding the proposed site. As was the case when developments like Village West were originally constructed, the removal of trees will be necessary to accommodate the proposed development. However, while the Jay Street parcel is 7 acres, the proposed development would impact less than 50% of the wooded land. You can consult the site plan to see the specific impact nearest your home. In designing the site, we have made a concerted effort to minimize the number of trees that would need to be removed. We will also abide by the Town of Chapel Hill’s municipal requirements as it pertains to natural buffers separating our property from neighboring properties.
As proposed, the placement of the buildings and parking were designed to minimize the footprint of the site and maintain as much tree coverage as possible. Currently, approximately 51% of the site will remain undisturbed. Our team is committed to meeting or exceeding the Town of Chapel Hill’s buffer requirements along all sides of the property and we are exploring landscaping options that will maximize the visual appeal of the site which includes preserving existing trees and incorporating new trees and shrubbery with native species. All landscaping will be esthetically compatible with that of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Any construction firm that is selected to build the proposed project is required to abide by all municipal and state environmental standards during the entire construction phase.
All modern construction is required to have storm water design that is engineered to address storm water runoff based on local and state standards. The proposed development will adhere to all requirements to maintain stormwater onsite and ensure that the design meets all requirements for any discharge off-site.
The project concept plan does not propose any disturbance to the RCD.
As proposed, the Jay Street Development will have two dumpsters and a recycling bin. We try to locate the dumpsters in areas that are farthest away from the entrance in an effort to discourage non-resident use. In addition, our on-site management team is tasked with monitoring dumping activity and reporting any non-resident that they observe to local officials. In instances where we notice that dumpsters are reaching capacity sooner than expected, our policy is to work with the vendor to increase pick-ups. While trash is always tough to manage, we feel like the structure that we will have in place will minimize any negative impact on the surrounding community as well as provide a clean and convenient area for our residents to dispose of trash.
The proposed residential development is on Town land south of the cemetery and does not propose to impact the cemetery.
The current proposed site amenities include a computer/business center, exercise facility, playground and tot lot, resident event center, centralized laundry with each unit having a washer and dryer hookup, indoor and outdoor seating areas and covered patio, and an exterior storage area and balcony on each unit. The proposed development will not have a pool.
Because we are in the preliminary stages of design, this has not been decided upon. However, we will abide by the Town of Chapel Hill’s municipal requirements as it pertains to buffers separating our property from neighboring properties and will consider all neighbor recommendations regarding buffers when a decision is made.
The railroad line that is located adjacent to the Jay Street property is owned and operated by Norfolk Southern Railway Company (NS). Per NS’s most recent inventory report (dated 4/1/21), only one destination train crosses this track during daytime hours (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and no activity is scheduled during evening hours (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.). In addition, the speed of the one daily train is estimated by NS to be approximately 5-10 mph. As a result, minimal daytime (and no nighttime) interruption is anticipated pertaining to the proposed development and no additional impact to the existing community is expected.
It is not uncommon for development to be located in close proximity to an existing rail line. In fact, Estes Park Apartments and some of the homes in the Village West community are located within similar proximity to the rail line when compared to where the proposed Jay Street development will be situated. Taft-Mills Group has several multi-family properties in our portfolio that are adjacent to rail lines, each of which has significantly higher daily volume than the Jay Street line, and we have had no issues with leasing those units.
During the construction phase, there will inevitably be a higher noise level than normal. However, the contractor that is selected for this project will be mandated to abide by the Town of Chapel Hill’s hours of operation for all on-site construction activity. In addition, we will work with neighboring HOA’s to devise creative strategies to help limit interruption during working hours.
The Town’s development review process follows a long timeline with many opportunities for input from the community. This project is in the initial concept plan phase, which means the development team has created a preliminary idea for what they could build on this site. The purpose of the concept plan phase is to gather initial thoughts from the community, Town advisory boards, and Town Council on the development idea before a formal development application is submitted. None of these entities vote on approval of the project at this stage, they only provide feedback on the project for the development team to consider as they create their plans for the site.
If the development team decides to move forward with submitting a development application, we would work with the community to refine the site plan before submitting an application for review by Town staff from many departments (e.g., Fire, Planning, Stormwater, Parks and Recreation, etc.). The application typically goes through multiple rounds of revisions to address staff comments before being reviewed and voted on by five different resident advisory boards and then Council. There will be public input opportunities at all the advisory board meetings, and the Council will hold a public hearing on the project before voting to approve or deny. If Council approves the development application, the development team must gather additional materials and information to apply for a Zoning Compliance Permit that certifies a project has been approved for construction.
The next community meeting will be held on October 12, 2021 at 6 p.m. on Zoom.
More information about the meeting, including registration information, is available here.
You can submit questions or feedback on the project website: https://communityhometrust.org/jay-street-development/
We will attempt to respond to all questions directly. Questions received that have not previously been included in this FAQ section will be added for the benefit of all future visitors to the site.
Throughout the design phases of the project, our team will actively engage with neighbors in an effort to come up with a plan for the proposed project that seeks to minimize neighbor concerns and allows citizens to have an opportunity to provide input. All input will be strongly considered, and our team will make every effort to incorporate as many ideas as possible as we move through the design process.