Robert Drakeford stands to benefit financially from a ballot proposal he is promoting as head of a city affordable housing board.
Drakeford, chairman of Charlotte's Housing Trust Fund board, bought seven acres on Statesville Avenue to build condominiums, townhouses and retail space.
After he purchased the city land two years ago, city officials named Drakeford to the housing board. The board is now helping push for a $10 million bond for affordable housing on November's ballot. Plans call for $2.5 million in bonds to go toward the redevelopment of Double Oaks Apartments, which sits about a mile from the Drakeford property.
City officials say the publicly subsidized project will raise property values throughout the neighborhood.
Drakeford's Web site advertising his project says the neighborhood is on the cusp of a renaissance, noting the Double Oaks redevelopment and several others.
Drakeford said he did not know about the possibility of the Double Oaks project when he bought his land.
“I don't know the economics of Double Oaks,” said Drakeford when asked whether the situation represents a conflict of interest.
N.C. statutes on conflict of interest prohibit elected officials from voting on proposals that would benefit them financially. However, the laws generally do not apply to advisory boards, said David Lawrence, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill's School of Government.
Drakeford's colleagues on the Trust Fund Board voted him chairman in December.
The panel gives the City Council guidance on how to spend bond money for affordable housing. City Council makes the final decision on which projects receive public subsidies.
Since 2002, the city has awarded more than $45 million in grants and low-interest loans to developers who build housing for low-income families and individuals.
Drakeford has publicly spoken about how vital government money is to spur revitalization in troubled neighborhoods.
He said he bought the Statesville Avenue property partly because his father once owned a furniture store on the land. Drakeford said he wants to see the neighborhood prosper.
Drakeford has unsuccessfully tried to buy other nearby land. In May 2006, he wrote a letter to the city saying he wanted to buy a neighboring low-income apartment complex and nearby vacant land that the city owned.