Now we know that less than acre of land near Ninth Street is going for a cool million dollars. And we know that if Blacknall Presbyterian actually develops 39 parking spots on that Iredell Street property—currently home to two historic mill houses—the total cost comes to $41,000 a parking space.

So in the affordable housing world, what does $41,000 buy? On Monday, I spoke with Blake Strayhorn, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Durham, who told me that $41,000 will cover about 80 percent of the cost of building a house.

On Iredell Street, if you do the math on how many homes could be built per parking space … (hold while I consult my abacus), you could technically build 30 homes for the price of 39 parking spaces.

Two historic mill houses on Iredell Street would have to be moved or demolished to make way for the luxury parking spots. The houses are 1,000 square feet each, a perfect starter home for a low-income family. The church is interested in involving Habitat for Humanity in either moving the houses or salvaging them for construction materials that could be used for other homes.

Habitat has never moved a house, Strayhorn said, which isn’t to say it wouldn’t, but the group can more cheaply glean the timbers and other quality materials. Moving a house is no small feat, not just physically but financially. The Iredell site is within a half-mile of the proposed light rail station, an area earmarked for creating and/or preserving 15 percent of the housing as affordable. Ideally, these houses would be moved to lots within this zone, but with exorbitant land prices, well, good luck with that.
The farther a house moves, the more expensive it is, plus you have to consider power lines, tight turns on city streets, etc.

The number $41,000 seems to be magic these days, and if I played the lottery, which I don’t, because it’s a regressive tax on the poor, I would pick those numbers.

Coincidentally, $41,000 is the same amount of money that developer BH-AG Foster is donating to Habitat for Humanity as part of an easement deal with the city.
He added that he has yet to hear from BH-AG Foster, and “it could be a while” before the nonprofit gets the money. While the contribution is the first time a commercial developer has put any money toward affordable housing in Durham, I’ll hold my standing ovation until the check is delivered and clears.

Speaking of checks, Wexford Chesterfield Parking, LLC, which is redeveloping the old cigarette factory at Duke and Main Streets, wants the city to essentially cut a $6 million check over the next 15 years. For what? 765 parking spaces! (Head hits desk.) City Council will discuss the plan at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

Wexford is redeveloping the building—a capital investment of $91 million—for tech and biotech research and development ventures. (Ironically, Chesterfield’s research department was across the street where the company studied how tobacco is good for you. Four out of five dead doctors agree.)

Also on tonight’s agenda, Longfellow Real Estate Partners, which is developing the Innovation District near Measurement, Inc. and Durham Central Park has its tin cup out for $5.25 million to be paid over 15 years after Phase I is finished. This project involves 271,000 square feet of commercial space, a public park area and 820 parking spaces.

To put these dollar amounts into perspective, another item on the agenda is the comparatively puny $500,000 the Durham Housing Authority is requesting to increase its affordable housing activities. More math: $500,000 is less than half the amount Blacknall is paying to buy and develop two-thirds of an acre of land.

Let’s allow that to marinate for a while.