Why Are Chapel Hill Employees Fleeing Town?

On Tuesday, the Daily Tar Heel ran an article about the fact that an increasing number of Chapel Hill employees are living outside of the town. Of course, the main point in the article is that housing prices are too high, and the only reason people are choosing not live in town is because they just can’t afford the rent. Could it be that they just don’t want to live in the town because it’s too congested, there’s no parking, and taxes are too high?

After giving the spill about high housing prices in the first half of the article, which is the only point most readers will take away from the piece, there is some mention of a few of the significant factors that make living in town less attractive that are not the fault of those pesky real estate companies trying to make a buck. The article quotes James Banks, the parking supervisor, as saying that housing prices are “too high” (I’m not sure what that means, seeing they are determined by the market), but he also points out that counties like Person also have lower tax rates. This is the reason he says that living out of the county is actually more affordable in the long run.

The article points out that property taxes in Orange County are among the highest in the state, which isn’t really that big of a deal for those of high income, but is crushing for those who are scraping by at the bottom. Of course, those pushing for more of these taxes argue they must take this money from people so that they can look out for those same people. Makes sense, right?

Not mentioned in the article is the fact that recently the County Commission of Orange County put a sales tax increase on the ballot for the November 2011 elections. This measure had failed the year before, but commissioners knew placing it on the ballot during low turnout would make it more likely to pass, and it did. Besides, it’s for the children you know, and if you don’t support it then you don’t want children to be educated. The point is that measures such as this only serve to drive residents from living in the county, besides pushing out overall business done in the county which actually decreases revenue. Moreover, it disproportionately hurts lower income people, as a few cents difference means a lot when you’re buying groceries paycheck to paycheck.

Banks also points out that he enjoys living “off the grid,” where he can probably go out to restaurants and the like around his residence and actually have places to park. Of course, we’re told by our overlords in Chapel Hill that abundant parking would lead to more cars which is bad for the polar bears or something like that, so this is a bad idea. In reality, what this does is just provoke people to move away from town altogether, not make them take up a green lifestyle as many would have us believe.

Although housing prices are a relevant issue and are certainly something the town has every right to work to improve, there should also be attention paid to the inconvenience of living in town due to the ridiculous restrictions leaders in Chapel Hill put in place in the name of ‘progress.’ Moreover, high property and sales taxes serve to drive people away from town, making somewhere outside of the county look much more attractive. These factors are certainly equally if not more influential than housing prices on employees’ decisions to live outside of town.

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