A core component of advancing equity work is access to data for transparency, accountability, and measurement of progress. Key metrics can show how the region is growing and changing demographically, differing outcomes for populations, and access gaps that must be addressed to thrive collectively. This dashboard serves as an initial hub for TJCOG and member governments to view equity data in a comprehensive way, learn about successful strategies implemented locally, and inform future policy and actions.
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Closing the Racial Wealth Gap
In an equitable economy, there would be no racial wealth gap and all workers would earn a living wage, regardless of their race and gender.
Chatham County Promise at Central Carolina Community College
The Increasing cost of higher education often creates barriers for all students, including those from low-income backgrounds, looking to acquire the education and skills needed to obtain higher paying jobs.
In December 2018, the Chatham County Commissioners passed a resolution to fund Chatham County Promise, a program that allows high school graduates to attend Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) on a scholarship that funds up to two years of in-state tuition. Similar programs exist in neighboring Lee and Harnett counties.
To be eligible for the program you must have resided in Chatham County for 12-months prior to the start of the incoming fall semester; be a public, private, or homeschool high school graduate; and have participated in North Carolina’s Career & College Promise dual-enrollment program while in high school. The program is currently promised to cover graduates from the classes of 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Chatham County’s campus of CCCC saw the percentage of Latinx students on campus increase between the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years from 30-40%. The school believes the increase is due to both the growing Latinx population in Chatham County, and rising interest in the Chatham County Promise Program.
By the Numbers
Increasing Access to the Workforce
In an equitable economy, everyone who wants to work would have a job. Identifying and removing barriers to work opportunities can bridge this gap.
Durham Ban the Box Policy
People of color are convicted of crimes at disproportionately higher rates. A criminal record may automatically disqualify someone from a job or make it more difficult to find employment due to the stigma it creates.
In the past two decades, “ban-the-box” laws have grown in popularity to increase employment among people with criminal records. A ban-the-box law removes questions related to criminal background from the initial application phase of the hiring process. This gives applicants the opportunity to display their credentials and applicable skills, without having to disclose their criminal records.
After successful lobbying from the Durham Second Chance Alliance, The City of Durham and Durham County passed ban-the-box laws that removed criminal background questions on all applications for public employee positions. The policy proved successful, with hiring of people with criminal backgrounds in the City/County of Durham’s public sector increasing seven-fold between 2011 and 2014. Further, no increase in workplace related crime was experienced. Since then, at least 15 other jurisdictions in North Carolina have passed similar ban-the-box laws, and in November 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order that put in place a ban-the-box law for hiring on all state agency positions.
By the Numbers
Making Homeownership a Reality for All
Homeownership can be a critical pathway to economic security and mobility. Increasing the supply of affordable homes in our region can offer more individuals the ability to purchase a home.
Sanford Redevelopment Lots for Affordable Housing
Developing an adequate number of affordable housing units is a key step to improve homeownership equity in communities. One of the largest barriers for the development of affordable housing is often the cost of acquiring land.
Since the 1970s, the City of Sanford in Lee County has helped to mitigate land acquisition costs by selling publicly owned lots to area non-profit developers for a nominal fee. One of these nonprofit developers is the Brick Capital Community Development Corporation who built 62 units of affordable housing between 1995 and 2009 . Other are nonprofit partners overtime have included Habitat for Humanity and the Sanford Affordable Housing Development Corporation. Citizens and for-profit developers that have approved plans to develop affordable housing can also purchase lots from the city at tax-value.
The lots originally came into city possession from a federally funded urban renewal project that demolished unsafe and unsanitary homes. In communities that have many publicly owned lots in holding, intentionally dedicating them towards affordable housing development can serve as one affordable housing tactic in a community’s toolbox.
By the Numbers
Understanding and Embracing Diversity
Racial and cultural diversity are key components of a thriving region. Supporting the diverse needs and perspectives of our region's population, including foreign-born individuals, is a critical step.
Chapel Hill Language Access Plan
As the region’s foreign-born population grows, local governments must intentionally engage their foreign-born residents to identify ways to help them integrate into society.
Through the statewide Building Integrated Communities (BIC) program, the Town of Chapel Hill in orange County was able to engage its foreign-born residents through a series of focus groups and information sessions to collect feedback on their needs. That process led to an extensive list of action items, including the development of a Language Access Plan (LAP) to ensure that residents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) have access to their preferred language while interacting with Town Departments.
The LAP, which was approved by Chapel Hill Town Council in November 2019, calls for a robust list of action steps including translating town emergency documents into the town’s top-five most spoken languages, offering a pay incentive for multilingual employees, and free translation and interpretation services at town events. Similar BIC processes have been carried out in Siler City and Sanford. Those processes have led to a wide variety of action items in those communities including the creation of a Latino civic and business boards and updating local and county transit routes to better serve immigrant neighborhoods.
By the Numbers
Ensuring Inclusive Community Planning & Engagement
As the region grows, there will be a greater challenge to ensure that proper representation in the planning process. Utilizing innovative tools to gather community input will grow ever more important.
Historically marginalized communities often lack opportunities to develop a community-led visioning process, that will ensure that specific measures can be taken to help alleviate inequities like poverty and health disparities.
In 2018, the Town of Carrboro in Orange County began the process to develop its first town-wide comprehensive plan. Early in the process, it became a priority amongst town leadership to use an online platform as much as possible. Using one would help to ensure that the town met its goal that 100% of Carrboro residents have the opportunity to provide input in an easy, safe, and engaging way.
With the help of a consulting group, the town developed its Carrboro Connects website which includes opportunities for residents to share their thoughts on what they would like to be included in the comprehensive plan via message boards and interactive web maps. The website can also be translated to multiple languages via the Google Translate tool so that Limited English Proficiency (LEP) residents can also interact with the platform. In addition to the website, the Town has used traditional means to gather community input including workshops and stakeholder interviews, which have been mostly held virtually due to the COVID pandemic. The Town also appointed a 29-member task force made of town advisory board members and at-large community members that are representative of the Towns demographics. The task force serves as liaisons between the town and the neighborhoods they represent by providing input on the comprehensive plan based on community feedback.
Carthage Needmore Small Area Plan
In 2019, the Town of Carthage in Moore County used a $22,000 dollar grant from the NC Department of Health and Human Services to develop a Small Area Plan for the Needmore Neighborhood, a historically African American neighborhood on the Town’s north side. The plan came at a pivotal time for the neighborhood, which had been working with the Town for several years on planning for the construction of what was viewed as a controversial bypass road.
With assistance from TJCOG staff, the Town facilitated a series of three meetings in the summer of 2019 to get community input on the overarching goals for the neighborhood’s future development. Community members ultimately decided the plan should be centered around four goals: making the neighborhood more connected, accessible, active & healthy, and welcoming. The development of the plan would also be used to provide feedback for the Town of Carthage’s Land Use Plan. Outreach around the plan included door-to-door canvassing by Town staff and sending meeting reminders with monthly water bills. The community engagement process at the meetings involved interactive feedback sessions such as one-on-one tabling and mural boards. The town was also intentional about holding meetings at places of significance, including First Missionary Baptist Church, where discussions about the bypass road had also taken place.
The plan was finished in April 2020 with action items created to address each of the four stated goals. Due to the onset of the COVID pandemic, fewer action items have been implemented than hoped to date. However, the Town of Carthage included funds in its 2021 budget to complete a long-awaited sidewalk that will connect the neighborhood’s community garden to downtown. Other action items include improving broadband infrastructure, building a community center, and continuing discussions regarding the development of manufactured homes in the neighborhood.
By the Numbers
Supporting Cost-Burdened Individuals
Every person in the workforce should be able to afford to meet their basic needs. HUD defines cost-burdened families as those “who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing” and “may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.”
A large portion of households in the region and the country are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on household-related costs. This prevents households from spending income on other necessities like food, childcare, and educational opportunities.
Sanford's Community Assistance & Relief Emergency Support Program
The Sanford Cares Program is a Sanford Community Assistance & Relief Emergency Support program. It was developed in 2017 to provide temporary assistance for residents in Lee County who are struggling to pay their water bills.
The program allows utility customers to round up their monthly bill to the nearest dollar, make a flat monthly contribution, or a one-time contribution of any amount. The contributions are added to an emergency relief fund administered by Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, a private non-profit agency that helps families with housing, crisis intervention, utility bill assistance, and more. Since 2017, the Sanford Cares Program has collected $27,411.86 and dispersed $14,113.84.
OWASA Affordability Outreach Program
Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) is the public water and sewer utility provider for Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Due to bond and fee regulations, OWASA is prevented from forgiving debts or charging customers different rates based on their income. However, OWASA operates an Affordability Outreach Program to ensure its customers have information and options available to them to reduce their water and sewer bills and manage payments more effectively.
One of the many initiatives under the Affordability Outreach Program is the Care to Share program, which is operated in conjunction with the Interfaith Council for Social Services (IFC). Under the program, OWASA customers have the option to donate extra dollars each billing cycle to the Care to Share fund.
IFC then works to identify customers in-need of bill assistance and distributes the funds accordingly. The Program has been around, in some form, since 1997. Currently about 5% of OWASA customers donate regularly, having raised more than $15,000 in donations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By the Numbers