Published: Mar 12, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Mar 12, 2013 05:31 PM
A March 2 article in the Chapel Hill News cited Professor Hodding Carter III, the distinguished journalist and former Assistant Secretary of State, and Aaron Nelson, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, as having reached such diametrically opposed conclusions about student housing in Chapel Hill.
According to the article, Professor Carter said the town does not have an undergraduate housing crisis saying It is utter and total baloney. Mr. Nelson cited enrollment growth at UNC from 1986 through 2002 and pointed out that the university admitted 3,000 more students but didnt build any more student housing and the development pressure on neighborhoods increased. In order to try to see who might be right I thought Id try to look at the facts.
I wasnt quite sure why Mr. Nelson only cited figures through 2002 so I checked the information provided by town staff to the council a few days prior to the meeting. It turns out that UNC had 15,691 undergraduates in 1988 and 15,961 in 2002. The growth was only 270, not the 3,000 Mr. Nelson had cited. Since I wasnt at the meeting it may be that Mr. Nelson was citing 2012 figures and was misquoted. Indeed it is the case that undergraduate enrollment at UNC in 2012 was 18,503, an increase of 2,812 since 1988. Rounded up that seems much closer to Mr. Nelsons 3,000.
At a council public hearing regarding the Bicycle Apartments on Jan. 23 Mr. Nelson cited a student growth rate of 1.5 percent over the last decade which he equated to 450 more students per year, He stated it is a growth rate we have not been approving projects
off campus to provide [for] and that leads to continued pressure.
So given undergraduate enrollment increased by 2,812 since 1988 how could Professor Carter credibly assert that the town does not have an undergraduate housing crisis given Mr. Nelsons statement that additional student housing has not been built in Chapel Hill
unless it has?
According to a presentation by Winston Crisp, UNCs vice chancellor for student affairs, at a Town Special Topics Session last August, UNC added 1,878 beds to its undergraduate housing capacity after the 2002 date used by Mr. Nelson leaving a need for 934 additional beds to accommodate the growth since 1988.
In addition to the added capacity on campus two purpose-built student-housing developments, Chapel View and Chapel Ridge, opened in 2008. They are both located off the Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. transit corridor and accommodate 902 students in total. A third complex, the Warehouse Apartments on Rosemary Street opened in 1999 and house approximately 130 students. So between the University and three purpose-built student complexes, enough residences have been built in Chapel Hill to house 2,910 undergraduates, 98 more than total UNC undergraduate growth since 1988. Adding the 190 beds in the recently approved Shortbread Lofts on Rosemary Street will result in a combined net excess of 288 undergraduate accommodations over enrollment growth since 1988.
At the January hearing Mr. Nelson also stated that in 2002, 65 percent of UNC students lived in Chapel Hill and by 2009 that number had declined to 45 percent. The August UNC presentation states that approximately 5,000 of the 7,400 undergraduates who live off campus reside in Orange County most in Chapel Hill; some in Carrboro, which equates to 68 percent.
Given that undergraduate housing built in Chapel Hill exceeds the increase in undergraduate enrollment at UNC by almost 300 and that about the same percentage of undergraduates who live off campus live in Chapel Hill today as compared to ten years ago, what do you think? Baloney or not?Matt Czajkowski is a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council.
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