In many ways, a familiar Charlotte story is playing out in Historic Camp Greene.
This neighborhood in booming FreeMoreWest was built in the 1930s and early 1940s on the site of an actual U.S. Army facility decommissioned after World War I.
Over time, the houses deteriorated. Crime rose. Homeownership rates plummeted, and absentee landlords stopped making needed repairs for their predominantly low-income, African-American tenants.
But real estate is about location, and Camp Greene is only one mile from Uptown.
As interest in close-in neighborhoods rose, more affluent and white families started moving in. Investors bought houses, fixed them up with new roofs and kitchens, and started flipping them for as much as five times the original purchase price.
Construction vehicles are now omnipresent along the quiet streets. Renovated homes are selling for $300,000-plus, and homes that rented for $700 a month are now going for $1,200.
Sound familiar? This has also played out in neighborhoods like Cherry, Wilmore, Belmont, Seversville, Wesley Heights, Grier Heights and Druid Hills.
Camp Greene is earlier in the process than most of these other areas, though. Deals on non-renovated homes are still being struck at $100,000 to $150,000.
But in this neighborhood, there’s a twist.
Yes, Historic Camp Greene is gentrifying. But a pilot program from the city of Charlotte is helping the low-income people who have lived there for decades share in the benefits.
Called “TLC by CLT,” the program offers forgivable loans of up to $42,000 to fix up houses in dire need of repair. Payments are deferred, and principal forgiven at a rate of $4,800 per year for the lowest-income participants.
The loans cover fixing code violations, abating health risks like lead paint and moisture, increasing energy efficiency, and installing accessibility features like wheelchair ramps. The goal is to preserve affordable housing and help older residents “age in place,” as the city of Charlotte says.
Homeowners making less than 80 percent of the area median income — or less than $39,600 for a single person or 56,550 for a family of four — are eligible. So, too, are landlords who have tenants at that income level or below.
Deed restrictions are put on the homes for at least 10 years, incentivizing current residents to stay put.
About 40 households are part of the program currently in Camp Greene and nearby Lincoln Heights, the other neighborhood taking part in the pilot. More people will be able to participate as renovation jobs finish up.
The pilot program will run through this fall, when the City Council’s Housing & Neighborhood Development Committee will hear a report on how it performed.
Will this become a model for gentrifying neighborhoods?
At first glance, this program seems like a win for nearly all sides.
The neighborhood gets a facelift. Home-flipping is disincentivized. Young families get an opportunity to buy homes close to the center city. Older residents get to stay put and build wealth.
City leaders have promised not to make the same mistakes on the west side that they made in Cherry and other eastside neighborhoods.
Time will tell if what’s happening in Historic Camp Greene is a part of that solution.