Why Housing Matters

Abundant and affordable homes are central to a vibrant, sustainable, thriving, and welcoming Chapel Hill.

Housing is central to our community

For most of us, housing is the most expensive item in our budget, more than transportation, food, child care, and health insurance. Whether we've lived somewhere for six months, six years, or 30 years, high housing costs matter for all of us. Too many people are forced out of Chapel Hill, or never get to live here in the first place due to the price of housing, which impacts the quality of life for everyone. Our schools, medical offices, and small businesses already have trouble hiring and keeping employees due to the high cost of housing, and things will only get worse if we retain our exclusionary policies even as our region grows. We want to live in a community where everyone can thrive, including school teachers, nurses, restaurant workers, graduate students, bus drivers, senior citizens, and households of every type. 

An example of Missing Middle Housing missing from Chapel Hill. This is a cottage court.

Where we build homes matters

The old adage "drive until you qualify" to rent or buy a home was for many years our key affordable housing strategy. But this strategy has come at a cost, as too many people drive an hour or more every day just to get to work. Long commute times are bad for our physical and mental health, reducing our satisfaction with both home and work. Long commutes are also bad for the environment — nationally, the transportation sector contributes 28 percent of all greenhouse gases and personal vehicles make up more than half of those emissions. By building housing close to jobs, shopping, parks, schools, and other amenities, we can create better places for everyone. 

An example of Missing Middle Housing missing from Chapel Hill. This is a community garden surrounded by a cottage court.

Complete neighborhoods

In the 1950s and 1960s, when many neighborhoods in Chapel Hill were developed, planners believed in something they called "separation of uses." Homes were built in one section of town, offices in another, and shopping centers somewhere else, and all were connected by roads designed only to be used by cars. We have seen the results of this approach — almost all of our trips start and end by getting in a car, our main roads are busy at all times of the day, and our street network falls apart whenever a gas leak or a construction project means that we have to close a road. We think you should be able to get a cup of coffee, or a few groceries, without having to drive halfway across town. 

This is a duplex in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood

Affordability and inclusion

One of our biggest challenges is the lack of housing for members of our community who have low incomes, including people on social security and disability, housekeepers and dishwashers, and caregivers both paid and unpaid. While our community spends a lot of money providing subsidized affordable housing, the shortage of homes for rent and purchase means that our need for affordable housing is even higher. A community where housing is abundant is also one that is truly inclusive, one where senior citizens, people with disabilities, and people in low-wage jobs can thrive.

A duplex in SE Portland

What we envision

We visualize Chapel Hill as a lively, diverse, welcoming community. Taking charge of Chapel Hill’s future means we need smaller, more energy efficient homes close to bus lines and greenways where young couples can start their families, and older folks looking to downsize can live and work.