Politics & Government

Apartment owners: Trash plan will hurt low-income renters

Charlotte said Monday that townhomes and condos will continue to receive trash collection. The city may still cut service for people living in apartments.
Charlotte said Monday that townhomes and condos will continue to receive trash collection. The city may still cut service for people living in apartments.

Charlotte’s proposal to eliminate garbage pickup for apartments will hurt the city’s poorest residents, some apartment owners and advocates for the homeless say.

The city is considering only offering trash collection for single-family homes, condos and town houses. Apartments would have to hire private haulers to empty their dumpsters, which would cost the owners more money.

As many as 103,000 apartment units would be impacted.

Phil Mason owns a 16-unit apartment complex in north Charlotte with units that rent for an average of $615.

When he first heard about the city’s proposal to cut trash pickup, he called private companies to see how much they charge. He said the fee would increase his costs by about $43 per unit, per month.

“I have problems collecting my $600 now,” he said. “This will kill these people. Where does someone who works at Walmart go?”

He added: “Not everyone who rents is poor, but all poor people are renting.”

Mason said he also works with Supportive Housing Communities, a nonprofit, to find apartments for people on the edge of homelessness.

The City Council has said that affordable housing is one of its biggest priorities, and it’s unclear how council members will react to the city’s most recent proposal. They will discuss the budget – and the garbage plan – at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Charlotte said it’s unusual for cities to pick up trash for apartments. The proposal is being discussed as part of the city’s budget process, but city officials said saving money is not driving the discussion.

An earlier plan to cut garbage pickup for apartments, condos and town houses would have saved about $3.5 million a year. The city’s Solid Waste Services has decided to keep serving town houses and condos.

Apartment complexes today pay the city $25 a year for each unit if they use city trash services. That doesn’t cover the cost of pickup, and property taxes cover the rest.

Under the proposal, the apartments would no longer pay the $25 a year fee. But the property taxes they pay would no longer help pay for their trash collection.

The fees paid by apartments, houses, condos and apartments covers less than 16 percent of the Solid Waste Services budget. Almost all the rest comes from property taxes.

Mike O’Sullivan, co-chair of Charlotte’s Homeless Services Network advocacy team, said the garbage plan “will set back our efforts to end chronic homelessness.”

“What’s the leading cause of people being homeless? It’s lack of affordable housing,” he said. “If the fees increase, landlords just aren’t going to eat this. They are going to pass it along.”

At a meeting of the environment committee Monday, Assistant City Manager Hyong Yi said the city understands the possible impact to low-income residents.

But he also said a number of affluent people also rent apartments, and that using property taxes to subsidize garbage collection isn’t an efficient way of helping those who are struggling.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs