Development

Charlotte City Council member: We should have a moratorium on new apartments

Construction continued on new apartments at the corner of Stonewall and McDowell on Friday December 5, 2014.
Construction continued on new apartments at the corner of Stonewall and McDowell on Friday December 5, 2014. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte is in the midst of a record-breaking boom in new apartments, but many renters are also experiencing a major crunch as housing costs shoot up as well.

Charlotte City Council has set goals for building or preserving more affordable housing: 5,000 units over the next three years. But the big surge of new, upscale apartments is still pushing up rent, and that’s leading some to want to push the pause button.

Council member LaWana Mayfield, who chairs the city’s committee on housing and neighborhood development, said Monday in an interview on WFAE about housing affordability that she thinks the city should have a temporary moratorium on new apartments. It’s a move the city doesn’t have the legal authority to make under state law, which Mayfield acknowledged, but one she said could help Charlotte assess the influx of new units.

“If it was up to me as an individual council member, I would say a moratorium on apartments to really stop, step back and look at where they're going, and are we really filling all these apartments,” Mayfield told interviewer Marshall Terry. She said it’s important to know whether people are staying in the new buildings.

“Are they staying past a year or are they just shopping around like FOBO, fear of better options, to try to get to the next community that may have more amenities?” said Mayfield.

It’s not the first time Mayfield has mentioned a moratorium. In June, she brought up “the m-word” at a zoning meeting where she pushed back on the surge of new apartments. There are more 10,000 new apartments under construction and more than 13,000 more planned, while average rent has risen 35 percent in the Charlotte region over the past five years.

Of course, the housing industry and apartment developers would vigorously oppose any moratorium (which, as noted, the city doesn’t have the unilateral authority to impose). They’d point out that a moratorium, decreasing apartment supply in the face of rising demand, would push up prices even more. And the vacancy rate has actually fallen from last year, according to apartment-tracking firm Real Data, indicating developers aren’t having trouble finding tenants.

Charlotte isn’t the only place dealing with growth pressures: York County commissioners considered a moratorium on new residential building earlier this year, but ultimately voted the idea down.

You can hear the whole interview here (It’s about seven minutes). What do you think? Leave your comments or send a tweet.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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