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Charlotte affordable housing fund closes in on $50 million goal with two big donations

Charlotte spent millions on low-income housing, but poor people can’t afford it

Over the last 16 years, the city of Charlotte has spent or committed $124 million to affordable housing. Next month, city leaders will ask voters for $50 million more. But the money hasn’t helped people like Curtis Simpson.
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Over the last 16 years, the city of Charlotte has spent or committed $124 million to affordable housing. Next month, city leaders will ask voters for $50 million more. But the money hasn’t helped people like Curtis Simpson.

Two multimillion dollar donations announced Tuesday bring a private sector fund for Charlotte’s affordable housing efforts within reach of its $50 million goal.

Fifth Third Bank and Atrium Health on Tuesday each pledged $10 million for affordable housing, including a combined $13 million directly to the Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund. The Foundation for the Carolinas launched the fund last year with an initial $5 million investment and a $50 million goal, to match the $50 million bond revenue voters approved last fall for the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The donations bring the private sector fund’s total to $44 million, or 88% of its goal.

Fifth Third’s commitment includes a $3 million direct donation to the fund and $7 million in loans and other investments to increase access to affordable housing. Atrium is giving $10 million to the fund.

A city report published last year shows Charlotte needs 34,000 more affordable housing units to meet demand.

“This is a tale of two cities,” Atrium President and CEO Gene Woods said at an event announcing the donation. “We are one of the most prosperous, fastest-growing cities in the country. And on the other side there’s just too many of our neighbors left behind.”

Scott and David Brooks, owners of Brooks’ Sandwich House in NoDa, also announced Tuesday they would donate three acres in east Charlotte to Habitat for Humanity to build 18 to 24 affordable town homes.

Since launching, the foundation’s fund has received donations from major corporations in Charlotte.

  • Wells Fargo donated $5 million directly to the fund as part of a $20 million effort to support affordable housing efforts in the city.
  • Bank of America, Ally Financial and Barings pledged a combined $70 million for affordable housing, the bulk of which is in the form of low-interest loans for developers to build income-restricted housing.
  • BB&T, SunTrust and the SunTrust Foundation agreed to give $10 million to the fund, and committed to around $20 million in below market-rate loans.

New York-based nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation manages the fund, which includes low-interest loans, money and land donations.

Charlotte-based developer Crescent Communities said it would donate $2 million worth of land to a subsidiary of the Foundation in the River District development it is building west of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

In a 2014 study from Harvard University and the University of California-Berkeley, Charlotte ranked last among 50 cities for upward mobility.

Since then the city has pledged to address issues such as affordable housing and job creation.

As foundation officials solicited donations to reach the fund’s $50 million goal, those in the private sector also have supported housing-related efforts apart from the fund, said Foundation President and CEO Michael Marsicano.

Those contributions — like the Brooks family land donation — joined with the fund, $50 million in bond revenue and a $25 million from LISC, total $220 million in affordable-housing related funds.

Foundation executives set this month as the deadline to raise the $50 million. In an interview, Hugh McColl Jr., a former Bank of America chairman who is involved with the effort, expects that the group will make the deadline. The difficult part, he said, will be sustaining that momentum.

“Charlotte is famous ... for we do something, and we move on,” he said. But he said actually building the affordable housing units will help keep the focus on the issue.

At Tuesday’s event, Mayor Vi Lyles said 374 units of affordable housing are already under development using bond revenue.

“Progress is important —small or large steps,” Lyles said. “But I feel like on affordable housing, we’ve made a leap forward.”

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