On affordable housing, many ideas, but solutions are unclear

Construction work continued at The Landing at Park Road on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.
Construction work continued at The Landing at Park Road on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.

At Moore Place north of uptown Tuesday, local leaders gathered to talk about possible solutions to what’s become a major theme in Charlotte politics: Affordable housing and the lack thereof, as the city’s boom continues.

The statistics are well-known by now: Rent and average home prices are rising much faster than wages, federal estimates show that Charlotte will need 34,000 new affordable housing units over the next few decades and almost half of all local renters are “cost-burdened,” spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

The fundamental issue is one of growth.

“Demand for housing is exceeding the supply,” said U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, speaking at the supportive housing development for homeless people off Statesville Avenue.

She’s introduced a congressional resolution that would encourage the federal government to adopt a housing-first strategy with the goal of eliminating homelessness completely. She called the lack of affordable housing for many in Charlotte an “epidemic.”

State Sen. Joyce Waddell said she’s never seen the Charlotte housing market as tight – or expensive – as it is at the moment.

“I’ve never seen it like it is now,” she said. “Never.”

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams speaks Tuesday, Aug. 15, at Moore Place in Charlotte. Ely Portillo

In addition to a housing-first policy towards the homeless (emphasizing stable housing before drug treatment and other social services), other measures suggested to help with affordable housing included increasing the city’s housing trust fund bonds (currently set at $15 million every two years), increasing the amount of federal low-income housing tax credits and increasing how much housing vouchers pay.

“We have to continue putting the federal moneys there, where they’re needed,” said Adams. “We can’t do anything effective on a shoe-string budget.”

But with Congress tied up in knots over issues such as healthcare and the thorny problem of tax reform, the debt ceiling and the federal budget looming, it’s unclear what shape more federal help could take. Charlotte City Council has set a short-term goal of creating or preserving 5,000 affordable housing units over the next three years – a goal they say they’re about 40 percent of the way towards reaching – but rents are still going up and waitlists for affordable housing remain long.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo