Report for America picks Observer for reporter position focused on affordable housing

The Charlotte Observer is among news organizations from across the nation selected to take part in Report for America’s annual public service initiative to boost reporting on under-covered issues and neighborhoods, organizers announced Thursday.

Report for America trains young reporters and sends them to newsrooms for at least one year to report on specific neighborhoods and topics. The Report for America journalist for the Observer will focus on affordable housing and poverty.

A report from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission says Charlotte lacks about 34,000 affordable housing units needed to meet demand. That’s about double the number from a decade ago.

Unstable housing has been linked to poor school performance, economic inequality, racial segregation and other social problems. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force cited a shortage of affordable housing as a major reason a Harvard and UC-Berkeley study found poor children in Charlotte are less likely to escape poverty than their peers in America’s 50 largest cities.

Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit media organization, that has received backing from Google News Lab and The Knight Foundation among others.

The group said it plans to place 60 journalists at newspapers, public radio stations and nonprofit organizations starting in June. That includes The (Raleigh) News & Observer, where a reporter will focus on North Carolina’s recovery from Hurricane Florence. To apply, go to https://www.reportforamerica.org/rfa-corps-members/.

Fred Clasen-Kelly covers government accountability for The Charlotte Observer, with a focus on social justice. He has worked in Charlotte more than a decade reporting on affordable housing, criminal justice and other issues. He previously worked at the Indianapolis Star.