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JCSU professors’ study says regulations put affordable housing out of reach

As home prices in Charlotte continue to rise, a study released Friday suggests that some city land-use regulations put affordable housing out of reach for Charlotteans earning a modest income.

The study, commissioned by the Piedmont Public Policy Institute, concluded that housing in Charlotte is unaffordable for families earning 90 percent or less of the city’s median income, or around $52,000 a year from 2010 to 2012. That’s about 140,000 households, according to Census Bureau data from 2010.

The federal government defines housing as affordable if the occupant pays 30 percent or less of his or her income.

The trio of city land-use policies examined in the study – the stormwater control ordinance, tree ordinance and urban-street design guidelines – add more than $17,000 on average to the cost of a home.

The stormwater control ordinance requires a builder to construct measures for water detention that reduce the risk of flooding. The tree ordinance requires, among other things, a 10 percent tree canopy in new single-family housing developments. The urban-street design guidelines limit lot space, requiring capacity for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Helping or hurting?

More than 70 people attended a presentation Friday at Johnson C. Smith University where the study’s authors relayed their findings and opened the floor for a panel of city officials and private developers.

Pamela Wideman, the city’s assistant director of neighborhood and business services, said there’s a deficit of affordable housing, particularly in south Charlotte.

“People like firefighters, teachers and civic workers are finding it difficult to live where they work, in increasingly expensive areas like south Charlotte,” Joe Padilla, executive director of Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, said

Thomas Brasse, managing director of the development firm Faison Enterprises Inc., said that land-use regulations are well-intentioned but often increase the cost of housing beyond what the developer anticipates. Every $1 of money toward land-use regulation adds between $4 and $5 to the final cost of a home, Padilla said.

Nick Desai, a professor of business administration and economics at the university, said the study’s intent was not to eliminate land-use regulation but to inform a dialogue that helps the community decide how much regulation is necessary.

“Too much regulation can hurt the people it was intended to help,” said Desai, who co-wrote the report with Linette Fox, a JCSU professor of business administration, and attorney Sherrill Hampton.

Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon said the discussion provided good feedback between the public and private sectors and that it’s important to consider flexibility when searching for a balance between land-use regulation and affordable housing for the consumer.

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