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Funds roll in for Lake Arbor tenants, but most are still looking for new homes

Financial commitments to relocate residents of a west Charlotte apartment complex are climbing, but those leading the rehousing work say it will be slow and challenging.

United Way Central Carolinas announced it’s raised nearly $270,000 for tenants at Lake Arbor, the apartment complex beset by code violations that is removing its tenants to renovate.

Those funds will be coordinated through Community Link, one of several nonprofits that assessed tenant needs.

Community Link President Floyd Davis said 117 Lake Arbor households are working with his organization. Three have signed a lease or have pending approvals. About 20 have been referred to or are approved for a county-funded rapid rehousing program. The rest are still searching and most remain at Lake Arbor.

Tenants learned in late July of the owner’s plans to remove all residents and renovate the nearly 300-unit complex. Many low-income, elderly and disabled tenants described panic in finding another unit they can afford. Property owners have said they want all tenants out by year’s end, though many have earlier deadlines.

Davis said it will be slow work identifying available affordable units and landlords willing to work with tenants who might have eviction records, credit issues, or other financial hardships.

“We are in competition with other market rate tenants,” he said, describing it as a “one-by-one” effort.

“We are doing our best job to advocate for these tenants,” he said. “There is a scarcity of units, especially those that are affordable to the tenants at Lake Arbor.”

Residents described Lake Arbor rents as generally below $900, a rarity in Charlotte where the average rent is more than $1,200, according to Real Data. However, increasingly deteriorating conditions, deferred maintenance and repeat code violations led to tenants’ ouster.

Community Link will inspect each prospective apartment to screen out other substandard housing, Davis said. Fund disbursements initially will focus on upfront costs — first month’s rent, security and utility deposits — so families are settled, but Davis said there will be conversations about ongoing needs.

Mecklenburg County officials estimate the county’s contributions to be about $850,000 over two or three years. That includes short- and long-term funding, such as relocation assistance and rental subsidies.

Fundraising through United Way includes $100,000 from Charlotte residents Andrea and Sean Smith, $50,000 from Lowe’s, and $10,000 from the Foundation for the Carolinas. The city contributed $75,000.

“This shows the power of collective giving among individuals,” United Way President and CEO Laura Clark said in a statement. “When we come together to help our neighbors, everyone benefits because we are creating stronger communities.”

This work was made possible in part by grant funding from Report for America/GroundTruth Project and the Foundation For The Carolinas.

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Lauren Lindstrom is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering affordable housing. She previously covered health for The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, where she wrote about the state’s opioid crisis and childhood lead poisoning. Lauren is a Wisconsin native, a Northwestern University graduate and a 2019 Report for America corps member.
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