Comparing your city to a butterfly and your home area to its wings might normally be a lovely image, but not to Claire Fallon.
Fallon, president of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods and a member of the City Planning Commission, uses the butterfly analogy when discussing the contentious issue of subsidized housing in the Queen City.
"The wings on the east and west have all the subsidized housing," says Fallon, "but down the middle in what would be the body, there's none."
The concentration of subsidized housing, which according to Fallon is often substandard in design and workmanship, leads eventually to instability and lower home values for everyone living nearby.
Fallon and many others in the loose amalgam of several neighborhood homeowner associations that make up the Northeast Coalition are seeing an alarming growth in the number of foreclosures in various University City area neighborhoods, with a high concentration appearing in lower-priced subsidized housing areas.
People who can barely manage the monthly mortgage payment, or who may be overwhelmed by unexpected repair or general maintenance costs beyond the minimum payment, end up not being able to improve their properties, which also lowers home values for those around them.
"It's only fair that (subsidized housing) is spread out and not concentrated into areas that will be more negatively affected by the lower values," says Fallon, who also serves as president of the Legacy at Davis Lakes Community Association.
Fallon has further concern that with the current weak economy, the city will be more lax with restrictions and codes so as to encourage more and faster building. "With weak standards already allowing massive sprawl with houses butting up against others, more relaxations by the city will just encourage more inadequate housing, further driving down resale values," she said.
Making this all a higher concern is the fact the University City area is "a last frontier," says Fallon. This northeast quadrant of Charlotte has the most open land available to hungry developers, while also offering many amenities that attract potential residents.
The Northeast Coalition hopes to join forces with similar groups around the city to form a super-coalition that can more vocally press for balanced apportioning of low-income housing.
The coalition has a mailing list of 1,600 homeowners. The area's biggest subdivision, Highland Creek, has about 14,000 residents, but there are many smaller subdivisions with active members, according to Clair Lane, the coalition's secretary.
Lane, 63, says the mailing list consists of both residents of the area and others around the city who want to stay abreast about the development of University City.
Other concerns voiced by Fallon and Lane include crime reduction via neighborhood awareness and increased police patrols, school issues and the need for improved transportation.
Old Statesville Road, Fallon observed, is narrow and full of potholes but fast becoming a major connector to new northern subdivisions. And no one living in the Northeast needs to be reminded about the major speedway that W.T. Harris Boulevard has become.
Fallon saw a similar buildup of subdivisions and sprawl ruin another previously low-density area, in New York where she lived before coming to Charlotte."I really don't want to see the same pattern again," said Fallon. "In my 10 years here, I've seen nurseries, a llama farm and lots of other wonderful places disappear."