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Apartments to close for redevelopment, leaving hundreds homeless

A quickly forged alliance of charities is rushing to help hundreds of low-income people being displaced by a planned demolition of the 337-unit Silver Oak Apartments on Monroe Road.

The 20-acre site, just east of the intersection of Idlewild and Monroe roads, is being leveled to make way for a mixed-use project that will combine 100,000 square feet of retail and office space with 275 market-rate apartments.

A start date for demolition has not been announced, but all tenants are expected to be out by mid-February. It’s estimated 170 households remain at Silver Oak. They must begin moving Jan. 10, with everyone expected to be out in mid-February.

Property owner Roy Goode said Jan. 10 represents a deadline extension so families could stay through the holidays. Some families in the community report they were originally told to be out by mid-December.

Charity officials say that the closing of Silver Oak presents multiple challenges for parents, who are trying to celebrate the holidays while also searching for affordable homes and new schools for their children.

The nonprofit alliance aims to help with those tasks, along with providing a means to get the hundreds of dollars needed for deposits, advance rent and fees. Charities participating in the alliance include Crisis Assistance Ministry, Communities in Schools, Legal Aid, Charlotte Family Housing, A Child’s Place and Community Link, which is the entry point for services.

Carol Hardison of Crisis Assistance said each of the nonprofits represents a different area of expertise needed by the families, who are being displaced at a time when Charlotte has a well-publicized shortage of affordable housing for low-wage earners. That shortage is cited by experts as a key reason family homelessness has risen from 10 to 36 percent each year in the past four years.

“No question: Ignoring this would have created more homeless families ... and our shelters are already overflowing,” Hardison said, noting the nonprofits involved have received more than 100 calls from tenants in the past two weeks.

“These are families who are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling mightily, and this could be what pushes them over the edge. I’m promising none will be made homeless by this, but our alliance may have to help some find a hotel temporarily, just to get them out of the cold.”

Goode Development, which has owned the apartments since 1993, put all tenants on 30-day leases more than a year ago in anticipation that work would begin soon on the mixed-use project, officials said.

The proposed redevelopment dates to 2011 and is intended to attract businesses displaced by the ongoing project to widen Independence Boulevard. Construction is expected to be complete in 2016, and Goode anticipates the site will host an urgent care center, banks, drugstores, dry cleaners and a coffee shop.

The 275 multi-family housing units will be market rate (no rent subsidies), and Goode likens their appearance to the condo and apartment projects built recently in South End near uptown.

Among the Silver Oak tenants being displaced by the project is Ariana Cancel, 31, who gave birth this month. Before moving into Silver Oak nine months ago, she was living at the Salvation Army Center of Hope shelter for women and children.

Nonprofits say Cancel was part of a first wave of calls they began receiving in mid-November, when letters of eviction first appeared on doors.

“We have families here that don’t speak English. They don’t even know what’s going on,” Cancel said. “They don’t understand what a letter on the door means.”

Cancel said her biggest concern is the disruption a move will cause for her disabled 5-year-old daughter, who recently began counseling and therapy at Rama Road Elementary. “She is making progress, trusts the teachers, and needs to stay where she is.”

The family recently found a new home near the school, but at a cost of $150 extra a month, Cancel said. The nonprofit alliance fears she is one of many who’ll end up paying higher rents they can’t afford as a result of the move.

Veronica Wadley is among those who have already moved out, but she says that was only possible because she got help from nearby Christ Lutheran Church.

The mother of two estimates the combined fees required for her new home were more than $2,000, including a $575 security deposit. Christ Lutheran loaned her money for the biggest expenses. The church learned of Wadley’s troubles through an outreach program it has at McClintock Middle School, where Wadley’s youngest son was a student.

Church officials said they have since received calls for help from as many as 20 Silver Oak families.

“I don’t have money for Christmas gifts now. Whatever my children get, it will come from relatives,” Wadley said. “On top of that, I had to transfer my youngest son to a new school, and he’s broken-hearted.”

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