Northside Neighborhood Initiative

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The Northside Neighborhood Initiative (NNI) is a partnership among UNC-Chapel Hill, Self-Help, the Jackson Center, and the Town of Chapel Hill, that pursues a shared vision for the historic Northside Neighborhood: a family-friendly, multi-generational community that balances the needs of long-term residents, new owners, renters and students.

Durham-based nonprofit community developer Self-Help will utilize a $3 million no-interest loan from UNC-Chapel Hill to lead the acquisition and resale of properties in the Northside that would be used for housing opportunities, for home ownership and rental, consistent with the community’s goals and vision.  Self-Help's work will be done with direct support from the grassroots nonprofit Jackson Center, and in close collaboration with neighborhood residents, non-profit housing providers, and other partners.  Implementation of the Northside Neighborhood Initiative will be facilitated through a contract between Self-Help and the Town of Chapel Hill.

The NNI seeks to build on a long history of creative and courageous leadership among the people who live in Northside. It advances ongoing efforts of non-profit organizations like EmPOWERment, Inc., Habitat for Humanity, and the Community Home Trust, that have worked together over the years to promote and to build affordable housing and to conserve the unique strengths of the neighborhood.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the vision?

The vision is for a vibrant, diverse, family-friendly neighborhood that includes elders, students, families, and others in dynamic, inter-generational relationships and honors the history of Northside.  This vision has been conveyed through decades of neighborhood and organizational leadership, hundreds of oral histories, porch conversations, and recent planning efforts in collaboration with neighborhood, Town, and UNC leaders.  

What are the goals?

The NNI is designed to balance housing types in the neighborhood, in order to preserve the future of Northside as a community that serves homeowners and renters from a wide variety of backgrounds with an emphasis on people who work in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, by pursuing the following specific goals: 1. Helping long-term residents who want to stay in Northside remain in their homes; 2. Attracting new residents – a balance of working families, seniors and students – from diverse backgrounds; and 3. Increasing the availability of housing and financing options for neighborhood properties

How does the initiative work? How soon does it begin?

Self-Help will work alongside the Jackson Center, and in close collaboration with neighborhood residents, in order to identify and acquire properties for renovation and redevelopment.  Utilizing the loan from UNC, and operating support from the Town of Chapel Hill, Self-Help will seek to buy properties to be placed into a “Northside land bank” and maintain them until they are ready for  conversion to homeownership or rental housing consistent with the goals of the community. This effort was announced on March 9, 2015, and the next step in our work is now underway.

What is the Northside land bank?

We use the phrase “land bank” to mean a mechanism by which property can be strategically acquired, assembled, and converted to serve a community purpose.  Self-Help is forming the Northside land bank to try and gain control of key properties that can help support neighborhood goals.  Self-Help hopes to acquire properties from owners looking to sell, and plans to make these properties available for purchase by homeowners, non-profit housing providers, and other developers responsive to neighborhood interests.

How can I purchase a property from the Northside land bank?

If you are an individual buyer or represent an organization, and would like to inquire about property availability, please be in touch with the Jackson Center so they can add you to the contact list for when homes become available.

What if I want to sell my property in Northside? 

If you own property in Northside and are thinking about selling, please be in touch with the Jackson Center to talk more about your interests.

Does the initiative affect students?

Students committed to being invested citizens of Chapel Hill have been leaders in making this effort possible.  Students in the future will have an opportunity to live in vibrant, diverse community and expand their education and learn the history underneath their feet.  Also, current and former students have for years played an active role by working as fellows, volunteers and full-time employees at the Jackson Center.  Plans are underway to find additional ways to engage students in the NNI.  Among the ideas being considered are working with student rental property owners to establish intentional housing options for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in particular areas of study, such as education, public health, city planning, public policy, and other areas of study. 

Do other town-university-neighborhood initiatives exist in the U.S.?

The idea of “town-gown” collaboration with specific neighborhoods is not common but there are examples across the country that help inspire NNI.  We believe the NNI is unique in the scope of the vision, as well as in the commitment to authentic grassroots, community-based involvement in planning and implementation.  Also, most other such initiatives are focused on revitalizing disinvested communities adjacent to campuses, work that is important but in some ways less complex than NNI’s aspirations to balance needs in a community that has seen extensive investment in particular types of housing.

Why is the Northside Neighborhood the focus of this unique effort?

Northside is not just a geographic area.  This community is inclusive of all who live, work, worship, and play here.  Residents of Northside have built, sustained, and served the Town of Chapel Hill and UNC-Chapel Hill for generations.   Northside is one of the most diverse, vibrant, and historic neighborhoods in Chapel Hill. The preservation of the future of Northside provides a working model for the pursuit of a diverse and vibrant Chapel Hill.


Partners in the Northside Neighborhood Initiative


What is the role of the Town of Chapel Hill?

The Town of Chapel Hill has actively supported Northside community goals through its own planning and policy efforts over the years, including the establishment of a Neighborhood Conservation District in 2004 and the execution of a community plan.  NNI is the next step in pursuing these plans, and the Town set aside funds to support its implementation. Self-Help will utilize the University loan, and receive implementation support from the Town. This year (2015), the Council has committed to provide $200,000 to Self Help for administration of the investment. Future allocations will be reviewed annually by the Council. 

What is the role of UNC-Chapel Hill?

The UNC-affiliated Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings, Inc., provided a neighborhood planning grant to Self-Help, which resulted in the March 2013 Northside Housing Market Action Plan.  This plan is the framework on which NNI is built.  UNC itself has extended its strong support for the NNI by providing a $3 million, no-interest loan to Self-Help to support property acquisition and related efforts in the community.  UNC has also offered to continue to collaborate with Town and neighborhood leaders to support NNI implementation.

What is the role of Self-Help?

Self-Help’s mission as an organization is to create and protect ownership and economic opportunity for all.  In the Northside, Self-Help will further its mission by working with the Jackson Center and neighborhood residents to identify and acquire properties for renovation and redevelopment.  Using the loan from UNC-Chapel Hill, and operating support from the Town of Chapel Hill, Self-Help will seek to buy properties into a “Northside land bank” and maintain them until they are ready for redeployment as homeownership or rental housing.

Self-Help has worked on land banking and residential affordable housing development in Durham’s dis-invested urban neighborhoods for over 20 years, in partnership with the City of Durham, Duke University, and allied housing organizations.  The organization has also completed housing development work in other cities in North Carolina, and has a long track record of home mortgage lending, commercial lending (including loans to affordable housing developers), and related endeavors across the country.

What is the role of the Jackson Center?

The Jackson Center will continue to serve as primary community organizers and ongoing implementation partner.  The Jackson Center will convene and facilitate the Compass Group, a resident-led advisory group to the NNI, and will organize additional partners who seek to support the ongoing work of the NNI.  

The Jackson Center was established in 2008 to respond to rapid demographic changes in the Northside, Pine Knolls, Tin Top, and neighboring, historically African-American low-wealth communities in Orange County, NC.  The center’s main commitment is to honor, renew, and build community in these historic communities.  Its work is rooted in oral history listening and is realized along three primary lines of creative community development: organizing and advocacy for livable neighborhoods; youth leadership, education, and civic media initiatives; and celebration and connection through community renewal events and forums. In February 2015, the Jackson Center was honored to receive the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge Builders Award from the University/Community Foundation of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Can other organizations get involved?

Absolutely. We value collaboration and expect to work closely with local housing providers and other developers who share an interest in supporting the goals of the Northside Neighborhood Initiative.  If you or your organization is interested, please be in touch with the Jackson Center.

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