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Charlotte City Council defers housing rules

Saying it needed more time to study the issue, the Charlotte City Council on Monday night decided against voting on new guidelines that are designed to set aside some housing near transit stations for low-income workers and encourage more market-rate housing to be built.

The rules are being considered as the city prepares to spend $1.1 billion to extend the Lynx Blue Line from uptown to UNC Charlotte. The city hopes that areas such as North Tryon Street are transformed as the South End has been, where hundreds of new apartments have been built since the light-rail line opened nearly six years ago.

The proposed policy would have tweaked an existing policy that governs the construction of affordable housing.

City staff designed the guidelines to ensure some affordable housing is set aside, but to also make it easier for private developers to build new units.

Here’s a look at some of the potential changes:

• Under current policy, 20 percent of housing units within a half-mile of a transit station must be subsidized units for low-income residents. Under the proposed changes, that minimum would be lowered to 15 percent.

• The rule also says that in a single development, no more than 25 percent of units can be subsidized. The proposal calls for that maximum to be lowered to 20 percent. The policy would allow 100 percent of the units in one building of a development to be subsidized.

• In addition, the current policy says that 30 percent of the subsidized units must be set aside for families earning 30 percent or less of the area median income. For a family of four, that is $19,500. City staff has proposed eliminating that requirement entirely. The city’s new goal is to build housing for people earning 60 percent of the area median income, which is $39,100 for a family of four.

Democrat Patsy Kinsey asked that the item be postponed until July.

She is concerned about a provision that would allow 100 percent of the residential units in one building of a development be set aside for subsidized housing.

Democrat Michael Barnes has said he is also concerned about that provision. He wants the city to ensure that new, market-rate housing is built along the Blue Line Extension, which will pass through some of the city’s economically distressed areas.

While Kinsey and Barnes were concerned about concentrating low-income poverty in one building, Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx said he thought the proposals didn’t do enough to ensure low-income residents are allowed to live near transit stops.

He said he would veto the rules if council members had passed them.

“We are saying homeless people don’t belong on transit corridors,” Foxx said. “We need to put more options on the table.”

The U.S. Senate is expected to soon vote on Foxx’s nomination by President Barack Obama to be the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Foxx has said he will step down as mayor after he is sworn in.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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