Chapel Hill looking for ways to diversify housing supply

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North Carolina Construction News staff writer

Chapel Hill town council held a work session Apr. 10 to discuss the Housing Choices for a Complete Community initiative, which Mayor Pam Hemminger says has “garnered a great deal of community interest over the past few months.”

“For those who are not yet familiar with the Housing Choices initiative, its intention is to help address certain housing gaps in Chapel Hill by creating more opportunities for missing middle housing,” Hemminger said in a statement.

“In response to the many questions raised about the initial proposal, our Planning Department has hosted or participated in more than 30 public information, open house, community, or neighborhood meetings and gathered survey results from more than 800 participants.

A staff report presented at the meeting explained that as currently written, “the Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO) has encouraged suburban development trends, fostering the construction of owner-occupied, detached single-family houses and renter-occupied multi-family housing complexes.

“This has led to a segregation of housing types with about 70 percent of Chapel Hill’s land devoted to single family neighborhoods.”

The Housing Choices for a Complete Community text amendment project will encourage missing middle housing forms such as duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, as a bridge between single-family and large multi-family developments.

The overall goals are to:

  • Clean up the Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO) by updating the setback and height exceptions permitted as well as introducing definitions and development standards for townhouses.
  • Diversify housing types by permitting a range of housing types as allowed uses in the LUMO and creating opportunities to construct housing that addresses different price points, life stages, and preferences. That includes allowing duplexes in all residential (R-) zoning districts as well as allowing triplexes, fourplexes, and cottage courts in those zoning districts that currently allow multi-family development. Staff also proposes allowing accessory apartments as an accessory use to institutional and cultural facilities as well as places of worship.
  • Increase housing production and incentivize housing production by streamlining zoning approval processes such as allowing staff to administratively approve triplexes and fourplexes as envisioned by the Future Land Use Map (FLUM).
  • Encourage Compatible Infill ensuring triplexes and fourplexes constructed in primarily single family neighborhoods are compatible with existing development. Also, create development standards for these uses that take into consideration the mass, scale, form, building height, setbacks, and details of neighboring houses.
  • Promote gentle density sensitively and slowly so additional density will support community commercial centers, transit routes, and greenways.

A new survey is now available at townofchapelhill.org/housingchoices for comments.

“Like many of you, I am still trying to learn all I can about this initiative and how it might impact our community,” Mayor Hemminger said. “I also look forward to hearing community feedback in the coming weeks as we continue to shape our future together.

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