A unanimous Charlotte City Council voted in 2013 to let residential developers build denser projects if they built them in affluent areas and included affordable housing.
Two-and-a-half years later, guess how many real estate developers have taken advantage of the city’s “density bonus” program?
Zero. Time to rethink this one, City Council.
New affordable housing is getting built in Charlotte. A few private developers are in the mix, but generally nonprofits or government housing agencies do the building.
That’s the case with two applause-worthy projects in the news this week: The Charlotte Housing Authority’s redevelopment of the old Tall Oaks public housing complex in the Cherry neighborhood, and the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte Housing Corp.’s new Mother Teresa Villa complex in southwest Charlotte.
It’s just a start. We need an estimated 40,000 more affordable housing units by 2050. The city’s $816 million capital spending plan includes $60 million for affordable housing, but that will build just 6,000 units through 2020. Meanwhile, new apartments like Meridian Place on Monroe Road go up on sites where older, more affordable units once stood.
“We’re losing as many (affordable units) as we’re gaining,” Julie Porter, head of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, told the editorial board recently.
The council hasn’t pushed for mandatory inclusion of affordable housing in new projects – a move that would require lawmakers’ approval.
Why not boost the incentive to build workforce apartments in areas with good schools by increasing Housing Trust Fund dollars to such projects?
Patsy Kinsey, head of the council’s housing committee, agrees too many affordable units are being torn down. Can council require that a percentage be replaced as a condition of rezoning approval?
Developers wouldn’t like it, but they thrive when Charlotte thrives. And Charlotte won’t thrive if it keeps growing into two separate and unequal communities. To be sure, it’s not easy to make financial numbers work for affordable housing. Meanwhile, we keep getting more evidence that even though it might be hard, it can be done – even when you’re building in affluent or gentrifying communities deemed bad fits for affordable housing.
Housing authority chief Fulton Meachem told the editorial board Wednesday that Vistas at 707, a workforce complex the agency is building in the Belmont community near uptown, has turned away people whose incomes were too high.
“Those who say it doesn’t work haven’t been paying attention,” he says.
Let’s hope city officials, private developers and lawmakers are.