Chapel Hill looks to Longleaf Trace to help narrow senior affordable housing gap

Site diagram of Longleaf Trace, an affordable housing community to be built along Legion Road in Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of Town of Chapel Hill.


By Adam Powell

Chapel Hill has a problem. The Town has a serious lack of affordable housing, particularly for its rising senior population.

In response, Chapel Hill town planners are preparing a new 100 percent income-restricted community for aging residents on a 3.24-acre site along Legion Road. 

The partnership of Taft Mills Group and the nonprofit Community Home Trust, which came together to construct the Tanyard Branch Trace community along Jay Street in Chapel Hill, will begin construction on this new project later this year.

The new community, Longleaf Trace, will consist of 48 multifamily residential units and a large parking lot to accommodate all residents and guests. Current plans call for one three-story building on the property, surrounded by an outdoor recreation area adjacent to the property’s western border along Legion Road. Plans also call for a community clubhouse with a kitchen, fitness center, and a computer/business area. 

Longleaf Trace will be a mixture of one and two-bedroom units, all affordable to Chapel Hill residents at or below 60 percent of Orange County’s area median income. In addition to being affordable for residents below certain financial thresholds, the multifamily residential units at Longleaf Trace will also be reserved for residents 55 or older.

On February 15, town officials held a public information meeting as they prepared to ask the town council for a rezoning to allow for the construction of the new community. The rezoning request will be R-CP-CZD or Residential-Community Priority-Conditional Zoning District. This zoning is specifically geared to aid in the construction of local affordable housing. 

“The development is proposing to supply much-needed affordable housing in an opportunity-rich area of town, helping promote equitable development, economic opportunity, promoting mobility, and providing healthy, safe, high-quality, affordable housing,” reads an introduction in the Town of Chapel Hill’s rezoning application.

Town leaders discussed the proposed community at their Wednesday evening, February 14 meeting. Chapel Hill’s Affordable Housing Manager, Emily Holt, gave the council updates as the town streamlines its application processes and seeks new funding sources for some of its future projects. 

Holt explained to the town council that the specific rezoning request for Longleaf Trace should make the process easier to get scored for potential low-income tax credit funding. 

Holt explained that the town is establishing a new Affordable Housing Loan Fund, which will eventually be over $20 million, according to the town’s presentation. The fund has received $5 million in seed money from UNC Health and a loan from Self-Help Credit Union. 

Self-Help Ventures will be administering the fund on behalf of Chapel Hill, and the fund is anticipated to support more than 600 affordable housing units throughout the town in the coming years. 

Holt indicated that the town anticipates three affordable housing communities to be completed in 2024, including Trinity Court, expected to be completed in the spring. The Tanyard Branch Trace project along Jay Street is looking to break ground this summer, and Homestead Gardens should break ground by the end of the year.

There were numerous questions about potential stormwater runoff issues at the February 15 public information session. However, according to the town’s rezoning application, “the project does not propose to disturb any stream areas and will adhere to all required state and local buffer/setback requirements.”

The proposed community is bordered to the north by undeveloped town-owned land and a large pond. The town plans a proposed park on some of this property, the former American Legion-owned land along its namesake roadway, Legion Road. 

Several acres of the town-owned Legion Road property to the immediate north of Longleaf Trace is also planned for additional affordable housing. The town would like to create interconnectivity between the two future communities by establishing a dedicated walking trail that connects the neighborhoods.

Although the Longleaf Trace development rezoning request has not been formally placed as an agenda item for any upcoming Chapel Hill Town Council meetings, the proposal could come before the town’s governing body as early as April. 

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