In a Monday letter addressed to Durham’s city council and board of county commissioners, a spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity of Durham stated that the organization did not authorize its co-sponsorship role in the proposed “SCAD” text amendment to Durham’s zoning ordinance.

Carleena Deonanan, chair of Durham Habitat’s board of directors, wrote that “after a thorough review of our records and multiple conversations with involved parties,” the organization has learned that its involvement in the proposal “was enacted through an unauthorized third party.”

SCAD, which stands for “Simplifying Codes for Affordable Development,” was submitted for approval in May 2021 and identifies Raleigh-based developer Jim Anthony and Durham Habitat as co-applicants. 

“No staff member or officer of Habitat for Humanity of Durham authorized our association with or sponsorship of the proposal or related amendments,” Deonanan wrote.

“In addition, it has come to our attention that the same third party has been speaking and negotiating on the behalf of Habitat for Humanity of Durham with members of City Council and others as it relates to SCAD. This communication was not authorized and any representations, potential commitments, or promises made on our behalf were not permitted by [Durham Habitat].”

Deonanan wrote that “Durham Habitat expressed support for some elements of the proposal at its outset” but “based on the above information [regarding the actions of an unauthorized third party], Habitat for Humanity of Durham cannot support the SCAD document.”

The letter comes several weeks after Durham Habitat requested that its name “be removed from all documents regarding [SCAD’s] process and application” in a March 7 memo to Durham’s city council and board of county commissioners. 

Proponents say SCAD would broaden affordable housing opportunities in Durham by relaxing regulatory compliances and offering new incentives for developers.

Opponents say the proposal, which is unprecedented in length, would worsen gentrification and displacement and argue that its approval would set a troubling precedent for allowing developers undue access to the ordinance that regulates their work and profits.

In the months since SCAD was submitted for approval, its proponents have consistently pointed to the co-sponsorship of Durham Habitat—one of the city’s most reliable providers of affordable homeownership opportunities—as corroboration that the proposal was made in good faith.

The city council was originally scheduled to cast votes on SCAD following a public hearing at its March 20 meeting. But after three council members—DeDreana Freeman, Monique Holsey-Hyman, and Mayor Elaine O’Neal—said during the meeting that they needed more time to comprehend the proposal’s complexities, the council decided in a 4-3 vote that they would postpone the SCAD hearing and move the vote to May 1. Council members Williams, Jillian Johnson, and Javiera Caballero voted no on the postponement.

Other co-applicants have not been publicly identified and Anthony has not responded to the INDY’s previous requests for comment on SCAD.

Read the full letter below.


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