Durham has a housing affordability crisis and residents have been outspoken about the need for a solution. In the 2017 Durham City Resident Survey, only 21% of respondents identified that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the availability of affordable housing. These aren't just empty sentiments. 41% of respondents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to support affordable housing in the city. The only issue with greater support was funding public schools. So why do we continue to build more parking decks instead of homes?
Durham County is planning to redevelop two surface parking lots on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street. The sites will feature a mix of affordable housing, market rate housing, commercial storefronts, and 1500-2000 parking spots. There are two competing proposals that the county is asking for residents to choose from but either one will spend roughly $40 to $50 million dollars of public investment purely to build parking, an overwhelming majority of the total cost of the project. The county is prepared to spend $24,800 per parking spot while Durham has the highest eviction rate of the 10 largest counties in North Carolina. Compare that to the roughly $4 to $9 million that Durham County is going to invest to build at most 277 affordable housing units.
Half of the planned parking spaces are to be reserved for county employees while the rest will be for commercial use and residents of the building. This is particularly unjustifiable in the heart of downtown Durham. The development is in walking distance of Durham Station, an Amtrak station, and the future Dillard Street stop on the Durham-Chapel Hill Light Rail, expected to connect residents to thousands of jobs. If there's anywhere in Durham that can support alternative modes of transportation, it's downtown. We should be planning to expect less car ownership, not encouraging more of it.
The Board of County Commissioners endorsed a series of public interests that need to be addressed by this development but tellingly put parking over affordable housing. This priority is evident in the disproportionate amount of money being spent on parking. They need to hear from you on why this is an incredible waste of money and an affront to the values we hold. Instead of building infrastructure for private vehicle storage, we should be building affordable housing, improving public transit, and providing a complete network for pedestrians and bicyclists so all aspects of life in Durham can continue to be accessible for everyone.
What you can do
Attend one of the two remaining public sessions.
Session #2 - Saturday, July 28, 2018, 10 a.m. - noon
Criminal Justice Resource Center
326 E Main St
Session #3 -Thursday, August 2, 2018, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Nehemiah Christian Center
514 N Mangum St
If you can't make it to either session, complete the online feedback form.