Three days after a divisive meeting on affordable housing, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts called a special discussion on the issue next month, saying the city needs to spend more money to address the problem.
Monday’s council meeting led to Democrat Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles charging that Republican Ed Driggs was engaging in “political tricks” for proposing to change the way the city paid for improvements at Bojangles’ Coliseum. Driggs wanted to use hotel/motel tax money to pay for the improvements, which would free up as much as $18.5 million for other projects, including affordable housing.
His motion failed 5-4.
The debate and its aftermath raised questions about City Council’s commitment to affordable housing, which was a council priority after the Keith Lamont Scott protests and riots. It also became a talking point for the Mecklenburg Republican party, who said Tuesday that the Democratic majority failed in not supporting the plan.
Two Democrats – Julie Eiselt and LaWana Mayfield – voted with Driggs and Republican Kenny Smith.
Lyles voted against Driggs’ idea.
She questioned why Driggs was so interested in affordable housing after he voted against a subsidized housing project in his district in January 2014.
And she suggested that Driggs’ proposal could delay the project, which she said would hurt east Charlotte. City staff said the project would have still moved forward on time.
After the discussion, as council prepared to vote, Roberts did not advocate strongly for one side or another. The mayor did not have a vote on the issue, but some council members wondered later why she didn’t push for Driggs’ plan at the time.
In a statement, Roberts said, “Monday night showed there is support for innovative approaches to addressing this crisis. A well-prepared and collaborative discussion about funding sources for affordable housing is long overdue. I believe all options should be on the table.”
The discussion is scheduled to take place Aug. 28.
Roberts has supported and lobbied for some out-of-the-box approaches on housing as mayor. Earlier this year, when the city sold land on West Tyvola Road to a developer, Roberts urged the city place the sale proceeds into the Housing Trust Fund rather than the general fund, which would have been the standard practice.
The city’s Housing Trust Fund currently has a surplus of roughly $20 million. It’s difficult for low-income housing projects to move forward because they usually also need state tax credits.
More money in the fund wouldn’t necessarily translate into more housing being built quickly.
But Driggs suggested Monday that the city could create an entirely new program, such as rental subsidies for low-income residents.