Ken Larsen's web site - UNC and Chapel Hill politics


The University of North Carolina (UNC) is the crown jewel of Chapel Hill, but their continued growth has a negative side. 
UNC and UNC healthcare currently own a lot of property in Chapel Hill [estimates vary between 20% and 35% - details].  They are a non-profit, and as such, they don't pay property taxes.  If they continue to grow, that increases the likelihood that property taxes will rise.  Property taxes are needed to pay for schools, parks, police, greenways, infrastructure, and affordable housing.
Property taxes have become so high that teachers and police officers cannot afford to live in Chapel Hill.  Ditto for many of the low income workers at UNC.

Rising property taxes and limited affordable housing effect Chapel Hill's ability to attract jobs as companies find Durham and Raleigh cheaper, so they build there instead.
Parking is a big issue at UNC/UNC Healthcare.  They don't provide ample parking for their students, staff, and patients.  They also charge for parking.  They have park and ride (P&R) facilities, but they charge for those, as well.  Buses transport people from the P&R lots to the main campus.  Students prefer to live off campus so that they can have cars ... to get to their jobs.  This puts pressure on the housing market and reduces the amount of affordable housing.
UNC contributes to the Chapel Hill bus system, but one of their stipulations is that the buses take people to UNC.
In recent years there has been a fight over whether or not to build the Durham-Orange County Light Rail project (DOLRT).  [details]  In Orange County the only true beneficiary is UNC; however, they are paying none of the cost.  Everyone else will pay the cost yet reap little of the benefit.  This is not fair.
The DOLRT proponents argue that DOLRT is needed to prevent sprawl.  It will encourage growth along the DOLRT route ... allowing UNC workers to get to their jobs.  Well, UNC obviously didn't get that memo, because their workers and students are scattered all over.  UNC Healthcare is also scattered.  There is a hospital in Hillsborough, and a healthcare facility is planned for Morrisville.  By the time the DOLRT is finished (2029), there likely will be more scattered facilities.

(October 2, 2017) At a meeting I attended on affordable housing, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said that UNC-Chapel Hill has been mandated to grow by 275 students each year.  Because many students prefer to live off campus, that growth will drive up local housing costs and reduce the already limited supply of affordable housing.

(February 4, 2019)  David Schwartz:   A few comments on the “No more than four” rule: First, it has proven difficult for the town to enforce the ordinance. Rick can elaborate on why this is so, but you can imagine the challenge of proving that a house has more than four students living in it, especially now that students can conduct most of their business online and don’t need a postal address.
Second, landlords have been creative in finding ways to adhere to the letter of the ordinance while violating its spirit. For example, some older houses in town, such as near campus, have more than four bedrooms, and landlords have found ways to turn the single house into two (or more) residences, such as by erecting some partition walls to carve the interior into two separate volumes, and adding a second entrance. Voila! Now the single family home is a duplex and can be rented to eight students. 
Balancing students’ need for affordable housing close to campus with non-student residents’ desire to prevent their family-oriented neighborhoods from turning into "student ghettos” is an ongoing challenge.


Why do students live off campus?


1 Proximity to stores Ideally, the center of a campus should have a grocery store, restaurants, and a Target-like store.   Without these and without a car, students have to take a bus to get to a grocery store.  That's a huge hassle.  They might have to wait 45 minutes for a bus and then the ride is 10 minutes ... each way. 
2 They can have a car. Needed to get to a job.
3 Parking on campus is expensive, is extremely limited, and you have to walk far to get to your car. Ideally, each dormitory should have a huge parking deck.
4 Buses are free and take students to campus.  
5 Apartment complexes have amentities that dormitories can't provide. Examples:  Pool with a "lazy river", a 3-story slide, and a pool-side bar.  They have these in Florida.
6 It's cheaper.  
It's higher quality.   
They can have a kitchen.  Dorms have one kitchen per floor, but it's not as good as what is available at an apartment. 
Fewer rules Dormitories have long lists of rules to govern behavior.


Reasons why students live on campus


1 Proximity to classes  
2 Ownership of a car is expensive.  Gas + taxes + insurance
3 Driving from off-campus to class is a hassle. Limited on-campus parking + parking permit is needed. 
4 Mandated for first year students.  


How do other college communities address this issue?


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