Retired Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl and other local leaders urged more solutions to Charlotte’s affordable housing shortage – while acknowledging fixes might not come easy.
The panel discussion Wednesday night at Covenant Presbyterian Church was part of a series of talks organized by the church in response to September’s shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. In that case, Scott, who was black, was killed by a black Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, an incident that sparked days of protests in the city.
The church described Wednesday’s talk as designed to share ideas for increasing affordable housing as a means to address “racial inequality” in Charlotte. Panelists said local and state government could take steps to make it easier for developers to build affordable housing, like faster approval processes and more tax breaks to help cover costs.
“Mayor ... time of is of the essence,” McColl said, addressing Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who was in the audience. “You have the ability to talk to your people about, ‘Hey, how about speeding up these approvals?’”
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Mayor...time of is of the essence.
Retired Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl, to Mayor Jennifer Roberts on speeding up approval processes to spur more affordable housing.
“Affordable” housing is defined as costing its occupants no more than 30 percent of their annual household earnings, said Pamela Wideman, the city’s deputy director of neighborhood and business services. In Charlotte, there’s a need for about 34,000 new affordable housing units over the coming decades, she said, adding that Charlotte is a fast-growing city gaining about 40 new residents each day on average.
“So the need is continuing to grow,” she said.
Developer Peter Pappas said cost is the “No. 1” challenge for-profit developers face in building affordable housing.
“Our challenge is finding equity, debt and an offset to allow us to lease a portion of our units at a below-market rate,” he said. “As you can imagine, most of our investors in these projects are pension funds, they’re institutional investors, and they expect a certain return.”
One helpful step government can take is streamlining processes for developers seeking project approvals, he said.
“If it takes too long, it’s going to be hard for us to control the site,” Pappas said. “And it’s going to be hard for us to control the costs.”