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Hot Orange News & Analysis - December 2008

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Xmas Pork For All, Courtesy The Unborn, Chapelboro Steps Up To Fed Feed Trough

Press The Image To Hear Mayor Chilton Speaking Pork To Mayor Foy

In a fitting ending for a year of abysmally irresponsible government financial regulation, followed by panic federal government spending, Chapelboro governance boards want to join in. Wanting to chow down on the government “stimulus” spending being slopped into the federal government feed trough, the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are milking their wish list of important infrastructure pork projects.

Here are some of the vital infrastructure ($47,000,000+) projects that will save the USA economy by adding their fair portion, nationwide, of a $1,000,000,000,000 in national debt.

Project Town Cost
Adams Tract foot bridge Carrboro $45,000
Athletic field lighting (8) Carrboro $380,000
Fire substation Carrboro $3,000,000
Gravel CHPD parking lot Chapel Hill $32,000
Library Chapel Hill $14,500,000
Resurfacing 14 miles Chapel Hill $1,450,000
Sidewalks Carrboro $407,000
Sidewalk (11,000 feet) Chapel Hill $560,000
Street repair Chapel Hill $1,250,000
Town Hall carpeting Chapel Hill $175,000
Transit buses (30) Chapel Hill $10,300,000

No word on how much debt will be created for the the firstborn child of 2009 in the UNC hospital.

(See Herald Sun Feed Trough Story.)

School Excellence in Excrement, Bungling In Building The Morris Grove Elementary School

Press The Image To Hear School Officials Chasing Down Coliform Contamination

In a tribute to the management skills of the Chapelboro school system, its latest elementary school, Morris Grove suffers from poo in its drinking water pipes. Yes, Morris Grove has “pootable” water. Built at the inflated “hospital pricing” of over $200 per square foot, Morris Grove comes with a stunning institutional concrete block finish. The greenest of Chapelboro schools, with reclaimed rainwater (brimming with coliform bacteria), has turned brown.

According to the Daily Tar Heel water fountains were put off limits in November. School officials have been scratching their heads on how coliform bacteria was contaminating the potable water supply. Too bad, they didn’t listen to free advice from a local citizen-buildings engineer who reviewed the plans for free. Potential problems with the potable water supply were pointed out and dutifully ignored. Another wonderful example of how government agencies can ignore helpful advice without fear of recourse.

In the interim, Chapelboro school system is spending multiple times their Morris Grove drinking water budget on importing bottled water.

No word on who tested the pipes before issuing a certificate of occupancy and what the test results were.

Small Town Urbanism Or Metropolitan Urbanism? A Pulp Nonfiction Quiz

Press The Image To Hear A Discussion of STUPIDity

Pulpsters hear ad nauseum about how local Orange Progressive politicians and town planning staffs are on the forefront of bringing “Small Town Urbanism” to southern Orange County. In keeping with the standards for the local “transparency” of land use planning issues, there is no single codified answer to point to as the definition of small town urbanism. The amorphous, “feel good” cloud of small town urbanism floats above a shifting sea of fluid plans and studies.

Pulpsters, here's a challenge for you.

Take the Small Town Urbanist Planning & Intense Development (aka STUPID) quiz. A series of statements regarding land use planning will be listed below. Guess whether or not each statement is true for the towns of Chapelboro, the metropolis of Chicago, or both. See if you can tell the difference between small town urbanism and metropolitan urbanism.

The answers will be provided at the end. No peeking.

STUPID Land Use Planning Quiz – Is It Chicago, Chapelboro, or Both?

1. Money often drives the land use planning process.

2. Municipal planning staff objects to intense dense infill development that changes neighborhoods.

3. Homeowners are often left out of the decision-making and boxed in by towering or dense structures approved by politicians.

4. Citizen community input is an illusion.

5. Advisory groups appointed by local politicians are billed as neighborhood's voice but are ignored.

6. Politicans decide what can be built regardless of advisory group input.

7. Rezoning requests depend upon whether or not you’re a pal of the mayor.

8. Politician approves dense upzoning, while spouse sells units from resulting upzoning.

9. Politicians consider their municipal land issue planning process to be a national model.

10. Local media uncovers land use planning abuses and hauls politicians onto the carpet for public examination.

Here’s a hint, Small Town Urbanism is largely a reflection of the upbringing of many of Chapelboro’s ex-urban politicians, people who escaped a metropolis only to want to rebuild one here.

STUPID Quiz Answers

For those who finished and didn’t peek, here are the answers:

1. Money often drives the land use planning process.
Both. As in Chicago, Chapelboro densification is driven by money. Developers seek increased profits from densification. Towns seek increased tax base without the cost of improving the citizen quality of life.

2. Municipal planning staff objects to intense dense infill development that changes neighborhoods.
Chicago. The Chapelboro planning staff actually drives densification. Developer project in Carrboro are routinely rejected for not being dense enough, for not maxing out under existing zoning and in some case for not asking for upzoning.

3. Homeowners are often left out of the decision-making and boxed in by towering or dense structures approved by politicians.
Both. Chapelboro neighborhoods are under densification assault from their politicians, just like Chicago neighborhoods.

4. Citizen community input is an illusion.
Both. Citizens aren’t crying out for densification of their neighborhoods either in Chicago or in Chapelboro. They are being told how to live by those benefiting from a deterioration in the citizen quality of life.

5. Politicians decide what can be built regardless of advisory group input.
Both. Advisory groups in Chicago and Chapelboro have no legal authority. The statement “Three- and four-story condo buildings dwarf century-old workman's cottages on quiet side streets.” applies equally to Chicago and to Carrboro.

6. Advisory groups appointed by local politicians are billed as neighborhood's voice, but are ignored.
Both. Advisory groups are fig leafs for Chicago and Chapelboro politicians to wear during the campaign season.

7. Passage of rezoning or ordinance amendment requests depends upon whether or not you’re a pal of the mayor.
Both. In Chicago, Mayor Daley’s friends get rezoning for densification, while those not his pals don’t. In Carrboro, Mayor Chilton’s pals get excused from affordable housing requirements or receive upzoning while non-pal barn apartment owners are wrung out to dry. (See Barn Apartment Pulp Story.)

8. Politician approves dense upzoning, while spouse sells units from resulting upzoning.
Chicago. A Chicago alderman approved upzoning that led to his wife selling $22,000,000 in real estate. In Carrboro, Mayor Chilton does both. He approves upzoning and sells property resulting from that upzoning.

9. Politicians consider their municipal land issue planning process to be a national model.
Both. Incredibly, in Chicago and Chapelboro, those abusing the will of local neighborhoods see their abuse as a benevolent and wise wielding of power.

10. Local media uncovers land use planning abuses and hauls politicians onto the carpet for public examination.
Chicago. The Chicago Tribune has a marvelous investigative journalist series on land use planning (see Tribune Land Use Abuse Series). Chapelboro media exists in service as a real estate advertiser for and a lapdog to land use development interests.

So how did you do?

At least you know what STUPID politicians you have in southern Orange.

Cracks Appear in Local "Separate But Equal" Façade, Local Columnist Calls For Study Of “Chapelboro” Merger

Press The Image To Hear Government Merger Talks

A local Herald Sun guest columnist revealed the first cracks in the Orange Progressive/Anarchist (see Ruby Sinreich) façade. Ms. Michelle Lewis dared to suggest that “… one day the luxury of feeling different may have to succumb to the reality that boutique governments are just too expensive. If that day has come, then Carrboro citizens should petition the town to study the cost savings a merger would produce. I expect the savings would be considerable.” (See Herald Sun Chapelboro Editorial.)

Ms. Lewis dared to point out that “Despite its small size, Carrboro has its own government and all the fixed and variable costs that go along with it…. Carrboro's town officials have been trying to reduce the residential property tax burden by increasing the commercial tax base. Yet when you have only 6.4 square miles within which to work, it's hard to accomplish without creating intense commercial development and very tall buildings.

As a palliative to local progressives, Ms. Lewis blamed the reluctance of one neighborhood, The Highlands, to be forced into Carrboro through a coercive involuntary annexation seizure as being due to a paltry couple of hundred dollars a year difference in Chapel Hill versus Carrboro town taxes. (Pulpsters should note how those more overtly concerned with promoting social equity over monetary considerations always manage to refer back justifying the actions of those with whom they disagree in terms of money, ignoring opposing social equity considerations.)

Ms. Lewis ignores the fact that the neighborhood in question was not part of the Carrboro social fabric, and some four years later, still isn’t part of that fabric. Likewise, she ignores that the BOA for four years has broken its promise to provide the annexed areas with promised enhanced fire protection. Pulpsters can note that the roads in that annexed neighborhood haven’t even been annexed, despite repeated assurances to the contrary by Alderman Jacquie Gist.

In typical local progressive fashion, Ms. Lewis offers no practical plan as to how the local Carrboro “boutique government” leaders and town staff will be paid off to accept a loss in money and power.

In the words of that great progressive reformer, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, “[powerful political office] is a f@#$ing valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.

Orange County Raises Tax Assessments Average Of 22%, An Annual Raise Of Over 5%

Press The Image To Hear Tax Assessor Smith Discuss Appraisal Techniques

In the midst of a local real estate meltdown where many homes aren’t even being offered for sale because hardly anything is moving, Orange County announces its reassessment. On average, each housing unit has increased in value 22% over the last four years, bringing Orange County's total assessed valuation from $11.5 billion to $14 billion.

According to OC Tax Assessor John Smith, ”This is great news compared to the significant downturn that many property owners are enduring in other, less-fortunate areas of our nation. People have gotten the idea that values have really declined, but that's not what we're seeing in this area. We're going to be keeping a watch on the market, so if the market does take a drastic change, then we're going to be reporting that to the commissioners.” (See N&O Tax Assessor Story.)

No word on to whom Mr. Smith is talking about current market conditions.

"Shot Across The Bow” As UNC Trustee Perry Announces UNC Call For Populating Downtown

Press The Image To Hear Trustee Perry Discuss His Negotiations

UNC trustee and local developer Roger Perry fires off a shot across the bow of “absentee landlords” on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

Speaking to the Friends of Downtown group, Mr. Perry said that he (a representative of the biggest in-town land owner, UNC) “wants the town to hound absentee downtown landlords into building-code compliance or out of business.” According to Mr. Perry, too many “out-of-town” landlords have allowed their properties to deteriorate ,especially on the second floor. ”One of the biggest problems with the 100 block [of East Franklin Street] is we have irresponsible ownership with a lot of the buildings. We have a lot of absentee owners of buildings and land up and down Franklin Street who have not been good stewards, and we should give them a hard time.” (See Chapel Hill News Downtown Story.)

Within one week, the town bureaucrats have responded by conducting fire marshal inspections in the 100 block of Franklin Street.

Of course, Mr. Perry has led the competitive stripping of downtown businesses by building nearby Meadowmont and East 54 on the outskirts of Chapel Hill. But with that development completed, Mr. Perry is ready, as a lead UNC trustee, to take on new redevelopment in the downtown section, all ten or so blocks of it. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Foundation has bought two big Franklin Street properties, the University Square and Granville Towers properties for $46,000,000. Each is ripe for redevelopment.

So what does Mr. Perry see as the crying need for downtown redevelopment? Density of course! He wants more people living on and near Franklin Street to make the downtown “vibrant”, read profitable for developers. (That bodes well for approving mega-dense mixed use redevelopment of University Square and Granville Towers.) He wants more connections between Franklin Street and Rosemary Street. (That bodes equally well for the for-profit retail properties located in UNC penumbra landlord holdings.) He wants more inspections. (That bodes well for pressuring landlords to sell out to redevelopers with money, such as Mr. Perry or UNC.)

Pulpsters should understand the mechanism by which UNC is buying downtown properties for commercial development. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is not buying the properties directly. Rather it buys them through an affiliated (you guessed it) tax exempt organization, the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Foundation (UNC-CH Foundation), a foundation started in 1977.

Time has done well by the UNC-CH Foundation. As of FY 2007, the UNC-CH Foundation controlled assets worth $238,355,858. It had an annual income of $35,396,612. It had an annual earnings revenue of $22,398,165. It also holds all the equity rights to technology created at UNC using federal government grants.

Pulpsters should not confuse the UNC-CH Foundation with the UNC endowment. The endowment is held, at least in part, by the University of Chapel Hill Foundation Investment Fund, Inc. (Foundation Investment Fund) started in 1996. The stated purpose of the Foundation Investment Fund is to support University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill through providing investment services to the endowment fund of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and other related organizations. It invests the UNC endowment fund and other University related foundations.

As of FY 2007, the total assets of the Foundation Investment Fund is $454,511,641.

No word on how a tax exempt foundation buys local commercial/mixed use real estate, pays local property taxes, but doesn't pay federal income taxes, all legal, of course.

Green Power Tops Affordable Housing, As Mayor Chilton Gets In Bed With "Coal Camp" Co-Housers

Press The Image To Hear An Explanation of BOA Exemptions

Just when affordable housing appeared to be on top as the “main squeeze” for local Orange Progressive politicians, Alderman Dan Coleman’s misnamed “Procrustean” bed gets a more attractive and dominant partner, green power. (See Peeled & Sliced Archives).

A local straw bale (aka ”mud hut”, formerly known as “slumlord”) owner cum developer has provided the basis for the ideological Carrboro conundrum – which is a better land use partner, affordable housing or a quasi-solar powered community?

“Veridia” is a proposed redevelopment of an existing affordable housing community. Currently known as the “Pine Grove Mobile Home Park” on Old Fayetteville Road, the existing Veridia (not to be confused with the Carrboro Appalachian coal camp vernacular co-housing communities of “Arcadia” or “Pacifica”) comprises 39 mobile home trailers. As it stands, the existing Veridia is among the most affordable housing in Carrboro. However, the recent (2006) buyer (Sustainable Properties LLC) told the Carrboro BOA that it couldn’t make money with the existing housing it purchased barely two years earlier.

The New Veridia
On the ashes of the bulldozed about 5 acres of affordable housing will be built 39 three bedroom homes, each having about 1350 square feet. That’s about 8 homes per acre. The Veridia developers propose the standard green mantra of catching rainwater for use (thereby depriving the natural environment with naturally distributed water resources), LEED certification and photovoltaic (PV) solar power.

Veridia neighbors will be pleased to discover that, like Pacifica, the Appalachian coal camp vernacular will be aesthetically enhanced by a perimeter road encircling the five acres and the placement of carport structures adjacent the neighbor’s property lines.

The target price for the homes is $289,000, or about $214.00 per square foot, well above the locally mandated affordable housing target price of $120,000. (See “Lord” Robert Dowling, Affordable Housing Guru.)

The Awesome 100 kW PV Powerhouse
Pulpsters may not readily appreciate the enormous power of the proposed 100 kW PV array. Each housing unit will be provided with about 3 kWh of electrical power per sunny day. No power will be provided either early in the morning or at night when residents use most of their electrical energy.

For perspective, the average American home uses more than 29 kWh per day. Of course, the electrical power deficit will come from coal fired power generation. So long as some power comes from the sun, in Carrboro that qualifies as a “solar-powered community”.

The Developer Pals
Veridia is being developed by Mr. Trip Overholt and Mr. Giles Blunden (of Arcadia and Pacifica fame). They are quintessential BOA pals. Carrboro’s Developer Mayor Chilton is so involved with Mr. Blunden that he asked to be recused from participating in a Veridia decision. In Mayor Chilton’s words, he “did legal work and real estate brokerage work ” for Mr. Blunden. (Unfortunately, Mr. Chilton didn’t see fit to recuse himself from earlier decisions involving Mr. Blunden and Pacifica. Town attorney Mike Brough approved Mr. Chilton voting despite Mr. Chilton’s employee being a Pacifica development partner with Mr. Blunden. )

Mr. Overholt is your above average Carrboro trustafarian developer. Coming from up North, he attended an ultra-expensive private preparatory school in New England (the Hotchkiss School, home to the Edsel Ford Memorial Library). After playing lacrosse in college in the mid-1970s, he had no occupation he considers worth mentioning until 7 years out of college.

Then as a “national proposal manager” for two years Mr. Overholt, in his own words, “helped Price Waterhouse win new multinational corporate clients by explaining to them in benefits oriented language how they might avoid paying their fair share of taxes using various offshore tax loopholes available only to the rich.

Again with a three year “notable job” hiatus, Mr. Overholt became a Carrboro entrepreneur, opening “Earthwares”.

After setting the retail world on fire with the first “green retail department store” in North Carolina and striking fear into the heart of WalMart, Mr. Overholt ”reenvisioned” himself as the owner of Sustainable Properties, LLC. He started his developer journey building a straw bale house with salvaged building materials in Chatham County. He also rebuilt a vacation rental home in Beaufort, North Carolina, turning the existing affordable home into a garage for the new unaffordable beach house.

Besides “tire kicking with my south of the mason dixon brethren”, Mr. Overholt has the goal of building “an affordable green community that will allow me to morph into a writing and counseling career as I delve within myself for the ultimate truth.

The Town Code Conundrum
Unfortunately for the Veridia developers, pals or not, the town code requires that the Veridia project include six affordable homes in order to qualify for stuffing 39 homes on 5 acres under the proposed scheme.

The town attorney Mr. Mike Brough has already juggled the code to allow replacing the 39 trailers with 39 homes without using a condition use permit procedure so long as existing nonconformities are not “made worse” and all applicable rules and regulations are followed. In plain English (Spanish not having yet been mandated for Pulp communications) the Veridia developers would have to forego the co-housing gems of communal open space, no setbacks, no recreational area, and no perimeter road.

Widening The “Procrustean” Bed By Exemption
The BOA has the ability to exempt the Veridia redevelopment form the CUP process and the affordable housing requirements of CUP applications. With one stroke of a pen without need of a public hearing, the BOA can allow Messrs. Overholt and Blunden to avoid the rules for non-pal developers. (See Pulp Barn Apartment Story.)

The Veridia developers presented to the BOA their request for a CUP exemption on 2 December 2008 at a regular BOA meeting. No vote was taken.

No word on whether or not Mr. Chilton has an interest in Veridia.

See Herald Sun Veridia Story.

Dense Chapel Hill Councilors Approve High Density “Spot Zoning” For Residential Development, Almost Tripling Existing Density Limits

Press The Image To Hear Developer Endorsement Of The Council In Action

Right before Chapel Hillians carved their Thanksgiving Turkey, the Chapel Hill Councilors, absent Councilor Matt Czjakowski, unanimously amended the special R-SS-C zoning district, almost tripling the existing density limits (floor ratio) from 0.4 to 1.1.

The density increase is in direct response to two new proposed residential dense developments being plopped in the middle of existing low density Chapel Hill residential neighborhoods. Profits will increase dramatically for the Ayden Court development proposed by Ms. Carol Zinn, and the Grove Park development proposed by the Rams Group of Lot 5 fame.

In the case of the Ayden Court development, Ms. Zinn can go from building 102,000 square feet of housing on 5.8 acres of land to her desired 180,000 square feet, the new limt being as much as 280,500 square feet. In plain English, if the average apartment/condo for Ayden Court is 1800 square feet, then under the new density limits, Ms. Zinn can build, not just her desired 100 units, but as many as 155 units. That density translates to building between 17 housing units and 26 housing units per acre in the midst of low density residential neighborhoods.

In true Orange Progressive fashion, when local developers need, the Councilors delivers, a special turkey treat just in time for the holidays.

Ms. Julie McClintock speaking for the Neighbors for Responsible Growth group and Ms. Dell Snow speaking for the Citizens United for Responsible Growth group, each asked the council to limit the R-SS-C amendment to the TC zones, the existing Chapel Hill downtown. Such a request would have not helped the Councilors pals, and thus, was dismissed after much individual councilor handwringing about needing citizen input for where to density infill the town . In the words of Councilor Bill Strom, “redevelopment [to high density] is good for the environment.

The Councilors appeared to be confused by the following map produced by the town staff to identify activity centers within Chapel Hill.(See Town Council Meeting Video.)

Focusing on the pretty “walkability” rings, Mayor Kevin Foy said he wanted to see the tripled density apply only to the downtown, where everyone was in agreement about wanting heavy density.

In response, the town attorney proposed amending the R-SS-C ordinance to eliminate the phrase “and/or neighborhood commercial/ employment centers”, seemingly eliminating the R-SS-C district from being placed outside the downtown. As amended and adopted, a developer seeking R-SS-C consideration has to show “support of a healthy downtown district by identifying or providing reasonably accessible pedestrian/bicycle and non-vehicular access to such downtown district.

An undefined requirement to “show support for the downtown” does not legally limit the R-SS-C zone to the downtown. Who makes that determination? The council. Is the decision quasi-judicial requiring “substantial evidence”? No. Can it be applied at a whim of the council? Yes.

As adopted, the R-SS-C zoning is NOT limited to the downtown, but can be applied anywhere there is one of the following districts - TC-1, TC-2, TC-3, CC, NC, 0I-1, I, R-6, R-5, R-4, R-3, R-2, R-2A, R-1, R-1A, R-LD1, or R-LD5 zoning.

Councilor Jim Ward spoke about reducing the pretty ring radius distance. Apparently, he wasn’t aware that the ordinance didn’t include any distance standard. Why not? The town staff didn’t want a distance standard. It would have eliminated the Grove Park and Ayden Court redevelopments.

The local media completely miscovered this event. According to the real estate advertisers, the council decided “not to allow the new denser zoning near ‘neighborhood commercial/employment centers’ such as Meadowmont, Southern Village, Eastgate, University Mall and Timberlyne.” (See Chapel Hill News Dense Coverage.)

Unfortunately that local media description is inaccurate. Upzoning the proposed Ayden Court and Grove Park developments to these newly tripled densities IS allowed by the approved R-SS-C LUO amendment vote of 24 November 2008.

Carrboro BOA Changes Fire Code… After Furniture Store "Fire Sale" Closing, Another Local Economic Development Success Story

Press The Image To Hear Bureaucrats Describe Their Local ED Efforts

One of the favorite topics for local progressive politicians is ED, aka economic development. Operating in a vacuum, without practical for-profit business experience, local Orange Progressive governance boards talk on and on about the need for ED without producing tangible results. To show their serious intent, they have four salaried ED manager-bureaucrats, each dedicated to promoting local ED, at a cost to Pulpster locals of over $500,000 annually.

But what do these governance boards and their bureaucratic minions do for existing businesses not within the UNC economic penumbra? A classic example can be seen in the case of Furniture Follies, an uncommon for-profit business located in the Carrboro planning jurisdiction outside town limits, i.e., the second-class citizen zone where residents don’t elect those who control how their neighborhoods are used through land use regulation.

Located in a leased warehouse on N.C. 54, about a mile west of Carrboro Plaza, the Furniture Follies owner, Mr. Ridge Cook, made the mistake of not understanding that the town fire code could be interpreted to stop his customers from coming inside his store. Yes, according to the Carrboro town staff, the Carrboro fire code required that Mr. Cook install a sprinkler system in an isolated building located miles from the town center before customers could set foot in the dangerous used furniture store.

(Pulpsters should note building sprinkler systems are designed not to save people, but to save building structures and to stop the spread of fire. Curiously, the Carrboro fire code doesn’t require sprinkler systems in bars and restaurants where people smoke and drink, as opposed to isolated used furniture retail outlets.)

In looking at sprinkler systems, Mr. Cook found he had a problem besides cost. There wasn't enough water pressure at his isolated store site to run a sprinkler system.

In the spirit of an entrepreneur, Mr. Cook persevered. He jumped through the Carrboro non-pal business hoops. He talked to town bureaucrats. He attended BOA meetings. He asked for an amendment of the town's fire code to allow internal firewalls in lieu of sprinklers. (Local progressives are big on “in lieu of” provisions. These fudge factors allow inequitable application of town regulations.)

In what was an eternity for a small for-profit business, Mr. Cook got good news. The BOA finally agreed to change the fire code. The bad news for Mr. Cook was that the FILO (firewall-in-lieu-of) required Mr. Cook to install new plumbing and electrical service to each side of his leased store. As reported in the Herald Sun, Mr. Cook said, ”It's too late for us. We're going to sell it out. We have until Dec. 31 to clear out.”

Mr. Cook made the mistake of moving into Carrboro’s planning jurisdiction at his own expense. He should have moved in at taxpayer expense. He should have used of a low cost, taxpayer-subsidized, Carrboro revolving fund loan administered by Mr. James Harris, Carrboro's ED expert. If only he had used town money, then he would have been a BOA pal. As such, the BOA would have taken care of their pal, interpreting the fire codes differently, or at the very least changing the fire code rules expeditiously for his benefit.

Furniture Follies has closed its doors because of Carrboro fire code follies, another local ED success story.

Seven Years of Affordable Housing Policy Doubles Median Home Values To 14 Times Median Income

Press The Image To Hear If You Can Escape Affordable Hosing


Pulpsters are familiar with the local Orange Progressive lament for not having enough affordable housing located within the high cost of living zone (aka high taxes without high service levels) provided by the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill (“Chapelboro”) politicians. (See Peeled & Sliced Archives.) The greatest local progressive political minds have been on top of the situation since the turn of this century.

What are the results of six years of intense focus on affordable housing policy by OPie boutique governments? The answer is that affordable housing policies have made housing less affordable, a spiral in which the more subsidies are applied, the more unaffordable the housing in general becomes. (Of course OPie apologists will proclaim that the need for affordable housing would be worse without their input.)

Within the city school district, in 2001 the average price of a new single family detached (SFD) home was $393,445. The median price (the price point at which half the homes sold where above or below) was $364,000. The average price was only 9% greater than the median price. The median income was about $43,000. The median price was about 8.5 times the median income.

By 2007 the average price of a new SFD home was $805,707. The median price (the price point at which half the homes sold where above or below) was $764,894. The average price was only 5% greater than the median price. The median income was about $55,000. The median price was about 14 times the median income.

In just six years, the cost of affordable housing to new single family home projects in Chapelboro (there’s no free lunch) contributed to a rise in median housing prices of 110%. In contrast, median income rose by a comparatively paltry 28%, although in line with income rises elsewhere in the country.

Have the OPie commishes been able to maintain the torrid pace of Chapelboro? The commishes haven’t implemented much of the aggressive Chapelboro affordable housing policies. Has there been a difference?

Within the county school district, in 2001 the average price of a new SFD home in the county was $233,626. The median price (the price point at which half the homes sold where above or below) was $228,000. The average price was only 3% greater than the median price. The median income was about $43,000. The median price was about 5 times the median income.

By 2007 the average price of a new SFD home in the county was $337,775. The median price (the price point at which half the homes sold where above or below) was $284,968. The average price had climbed to 18% greater than the median price. The median income was about $55,000. The median price stayed at about 5 times the median income.

In the same six years that saw Chapelboro SFD homes become even more unaffordable, rising from 8.5 times median income to 14 times median income, the cost in the county outside Chapelboro saw a rise in median housing prices of 25% versus Chapelboro's rise of 110%.

“Amazingly”, the OPie jurisdiction without the more costly affordable housing policies had median housing prices move with median income, which rose by 28%.

Affordable Housing or Affordable Hosing?
Location Year Median Affordability Index
Chapelboro 2001 8.5
County 2001 5
Chapelboro 2007 14
County 2007 5

Median Affordability Index is the multiple for the median income to equal the median SFD prce.

ho/december_2008.txt · Last modified: 2008/12/30 09:50 by editor
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