Charlotte’s population is growing faster than its housing supply, fueling the affordable housing crisis, a UNC Charlotte report released Thursday found.
The Charlotte region’s population increased by 15 percent between 2010 and 2017, while the number of housing units grew by 10 percent, according to the report. Richard Buttimer, director of the Childress Klein Center for Real Estate at UNCC, told a crowd at the college’s uptown campus that the key driver of Charlotte’s economic growth — its low cost of living — is at risk.
“We have to start producing more housing units or prices will continue to rise, and ultimately that will wind up making it harder to continue to attract new companies to the region,” he said.
The number of vacant units declined as the market had to accommodate additional population growth without enough supply. Now, Charlotte’s vacancy rate of around 7 percent is among the lowest compared to its peer cities like Atlanta and Indianapolis, according to the report.
The lack of housing also contributes to the affordability crisis in another way, Buttimer said: it causes wealthier people to buy cheaper houses and renovate them, and that impacts the options available for low-income homeowners.
“It’s a lot easier for somebody who makes a lot of money to buy a cheaper house than somebody who doesn’t make a lot of money to buy an expensive house,” he said.
The report found that housing prices have risen the most at the lowest end of the market.
In every year prior to 2014, 35 percent of all homes sold were priced at $150,000 or less, the report stated. Four years later, less than 15 percent of homes were sold in that price range.
For many residents priced out of areas near uptown, the solution has been to move further out. But researchers found that the trends are similar across the eight counties that encompass the Charlotte region: Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Union, Lancaster, S.C., and York, S.C.
It’s not just low-income residents feeling the squeeze — only 15 percent of housing units are considered affordable for those making less than $50,000 a year, the report stated.
“It’s clear there are groups of people that we have traditionally thought of as being middle class who are getting priced out of the home ownership market now,” Buttimer said during his presentation. “And that’s a supply issue.”