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Affordable housing units approved in Cherry neighborhood

Cherry neighborhood representatives hold signs in favor of affordable housing (L-R front row), Troy Drawz with Charlotte Housing Authority, Perdensal Springs, Donna Green, Maurice Robinson, before the start of Monday night's zoning meeting.
Cherry neighborhood representatives hold signs in favor of affordable housing (L-R front row), Troy Drawz with Charlotte Housing Authority, Perdensal Springs, Donna Green, Maurice Robinson, before the start of Monday night's zoning meeting. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

The Charlotte City Council approved more than 70 affordable housing units in Charlotte’s gentrifying Cherry neighborhood Monday, over the protests of some residents who said the new developments would be too dense for the residential area.

The developments will be by Laurel Street Residential and the Charlotte Housing Authority. The Laurel Street development will put 30 low-income units on Baxter Street, while the CHA developments total about 40 spread throughout Cherry.

While some residents opposed the changes, many supported them. Some longtime Cherry residents held signs reading “Affordable Housing Matters” to show their support, and clapped and celebrated in the lobby after the council vote.

Council member Kenny Smith, a Republican, was the only member to vote against the developments. He said he was concerned that an influx of denser housing units could push nearby schools, especially Eastover Elementary, to become overcrowded.

“I support the land use,” Smith said. “I wish we could reduce the densities.”

The rezoning petitions have split Cherry, which was established southeast of uptown in 1891 as a neighborhood for African-Americans. Many of the long-term residents supported the plans to add more affordable housing units. They saw that as a way for more of them to remain in spite of the influx of more wealthy residents and new houses selling for more than $600,000.

Many of Cherry’s newer residents, however, joined to protest the rezonings, which they said would bring too many big buildings and multifamily units for the neighborhood, wrecking Cherry’s single-family neighborhood character. Some newer residents also complained that the long-term residents didn’t seek their input and that the multifamily housing isn’t consistent with the city’s official planning document for the neighborhood.

Another Charlotte Housing Authority proposal would bring a 200-unit, five-story apartment building to the corner of Cherry and First streets. A hearing on the “workforce housing” development for people making $38,500 to $77,040 is set for next month.

City Council member Patsy Kinsey, who represents the area, said it’s important to make sure Cherry can remain a diverse neighborhood even as it experiences “adverse effects of gentrification.”

“If Cherry does not have housing available to a diverse set of homeowners and renters, it risks becoming a neighborhood of haves and have-nots,” Kinsey said.

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Twitter: @ESPortillo

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