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Small houseIn 2020, the Orange County HOME Consortium—comprising the towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, in addition to Orange County—released the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, a report by UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies Research Director Michael Webb and Research Associate Sydney Corn. This report is required for all jurisdictions that receive funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program.

HOME funds may be used for a variety of housing activities undertaken by local governments or non-profits. In Orange County, these funds have been used to offer down payment assistance to low-income home buyers, acquire and develop affordable housing, rehabilitate housing for low-income seniors, and provide rental assistance to low-income renters.

The report identifies barriers (or impediments) to fair housing choice in Orange County and provides recommendations to address those barriers. ‘Fair housing choice’ refers to the ability of households to have safe, affordable and sanitary housing available to them regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability.

The Analysis of Impediments utilizes federal and local data to identify barriers to fair housing access for households in Orange County. In addition, it reviews local fair housing laws and efforts to improve fair housing access throughout Orange County.

Over 25% of Orange County renters pay over half their income toward rent. However, for lower-income households in the county, this figure is much higher.
Over 25% of Orange County renters pay over half their income toward rent. However, for lower-income households in the county, this figure is much higher.

Key findings from the report include:

  • A majority of renters in Orange County are rent-burdened—meaning they spend over 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities. Low-income households are much more likely to be rent burdened.
  • African American and Hispanic households face difficulties receiving conventional mortgage loans, with African Americans more than four times as likely to be denied for such loans compared to Caucasian borrowers.
  • Only one subsidized rental property exists in Orange County outside of the Towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough.
  • Zoning throughout the county restricts development of denser housing. Denser housing is more likely to be affordable, due in part to the high cost of land in the county’s three towns.
  • Sixty fair housing complaints were filed with HUD from within Orange County between 2010 and 2018 (average 6.7 per year), placing the county 7th in North Carolina for the highest number of complaints filed (for reference, Orange County is the 20th most populous county in the state). Nearly half of all complaints identified discrimination on the basis of disability.
The number of fair housing complaints by reason for Orange County from 2010-18. These are disproportionate for discrimination by disability status.
The number of fair housing complaints by reason for Orange County from 2010-18. These are disproportionate for discrimination by disability status.

Based on these and other findings, the report makes a series of recommendations to help ensure all Orange County residents have access to safe and affordable housing:

  • Seek additional funding to acquire or develop subsidized properties in unincorporated parts of Orange County.
  • Educate landlords, property managers and other housing providers about fair housing law and reasonable accommodation policies, especially as they related to persons with disabilities.
  • Offer educational courses on mortgage lending and building credit geared toward the county’s African American and Hispanic households.
  • Consider areas to strategically up-zone to promote the development of affordable housing.

In conjunction with the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, Orange County also released its 2020–2025 Consolidated HOME Plan, which will guide investments in the next five years. A copy of that plan is available here.

The location of rent-burdened households (paying over 50 percent of income toward rent) in Orange county.
The location of rent-burdened households (paying over 50 percent of income toward rent) in Orange county.

 

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