Elections

Organizers declare victory as all 3 Mecklenburg bond referendums hold big leads

With almost half of the votes counted, about 70 percent of voters were in favor of Mecklenburg County bonds for $118 million to fund various transportation improvements, including new roads west of the airport in the Dixie/Berryhill area, a new bridge over Interstate 85 to connect Research Drive and J.W. Clay Boulevard and building at least 10 miles of new sidewalks and bicycle lanes each year.
With almost half of the votes counted, about 70 percent of voters were in favor of Mecklenburg County bonds for $118 million to fund various transportation improvements, including new roads west of the airport in the Dixie/Berryhill area, a new bridge over Interstate 85 to connect Research Drive and J.W. Clay Boulevard and building at least 10 miles of new sidewalks and bicycle lanes each year. Observer file photo

Three bond referendums from the city of Charlotte held big leads Tuesday, potentially clearing the way for city officials to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to fund affordable housing, transportation and neighborhood improvements.

With 149 of 168 precincts reporting, all three bonds had captured around 70 percent of the vote, according to tallies from the N.C. Board of Elections.

Bonds for affordable housing were ahead 176,409 to 81,228; bonds for transportation were leading 177,244 to 79,137; and neighborhood improvements 187,836 to 69,719.

Organizers had declared victory by late Tuesday, said Carol Hardison, co-chair of the bond campaign.

“It is extremely encouraging our community will care for hard working citizens who struggle financially due to increased housing costs,” said Hardison, who is also chief executive officer of the Crisis Assistance Ministry, a non-profit near uptown that helps clients avoid eviction. “I’m excited we passed the largest housing bond in the history of Charlotte.”

Historically, such bond issues typically pass easily, with 70 percent or more of the vote, and there was no organized opposition this year.

This is the third phase of four referendums planned by city leaders. Voters approved bond referendums in 2014 and 2016, and the city has previously said it plans to go to voters again in 2020.

The new bonds would not raise property taxes.

City Council approved a tax increase of 7.25 percent in 2013 meant to pay for the bonds, according to a November 2016 Observer report.

All total, the city’s capital spending strategy calls for about $900 million in spending in the coming years.

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Totaling $223 million, the three bonds sought by Charlotte this year include:

$50 million to subsidize new affordable housing over the next two years. That’s more than triple the $15 million the city of Charlotte typically raises for its Housing Trust Fund. City Council decided to increase the amount this year amidst rising home prices and rent and a shortage of affordable housing in the city.

If approved, the $50 million would fund subsidies for developers building low-income housing, as well as programs that fund the rehabilitation of foreclosed, blighted or dilapidated single-family houses and apartments.

A city report says Charlotte lacks about 34,000 affordable housing units needed to meet demand.

After the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott shooting and the ensuing protests in 2016, City Council members pledged to build or rehab 5,000 affordable housing units in three years. Prior to that, their goal had been 5,000 units in five years.

$55 million to fund the city’s Comprehensive Neighborhood Improvement Program. That includes adding sidewalks, connecting bicycle lanes and improving roads and intersections, both in fast-growing areas such as SouthPark and older areas like the Sunset/Beatties Ford Road area and neighborhoods around the former Eastland Mall site.

$118 million to fund various transportation improvements. The projects include new roads west of the airport in the Dixie/Berryhill area, a new bridge over Interstate 85 to connect Research Drive and J.W. Clay Boulevard and building at least 10 miles of new sidewalks and bicycle lanes each year.

Mecklenburg County voters approved $250 million in bond money for parks and greenways in 2008. Almost a decade later, many of the projects have yet to be funded.

Transportation bonds

  • Yes

    69.13

    %

  • No 30

    .87

    %

Housing bonds

  • Yes 68.47%

  • No

    31.53

    %

Neighborhood improvement bonds

  • Yes

    72.93

    %

  • No

    27.07

    %

Fred Clasen-Kelly: 704 358-5027; @fred_ckelly
Observer staff writer Ely Portillo contributed
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