Finally, Charlotte is making a good deal on affordable housing

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Maybe Charlotte actually is getting serious about quality affordable housing in our city. A new deal under consideration appears to be one of the most forward-thinking affordable housing deals the city has made in years.

It finally will bring a substantial number of homes for lower-income people in a desirable area.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal Monday that would sell a little under 12 acres of city-owned land in southwest Charlotte to a developer that would build up to 200 affordable housing units on the property. “Affordable” means the price of the rent is benchmarked to a certain percentage of the median household income of the city, which is about $53,000.

Charlotte-based Laurel Street Residential will pay $1.2 million for the property. At some point, they’d come to the city’s housing trust fund to ask for money to subsidize the affordable housing there. The developer is committing to at least 120 affordable homes, and up to 200.

The property in question is off West Tyvola Road near Renaissance Park.

Don’t let the name of the location fool you. This part of town is finally a booming area, 10 years after the old Charlotte Coliseum was torn down.

Belk, AT&T and UTC Aerospace Systems all have offices there. Nearby, a new VA outpatient hospital opened last year. It’s also close to the LakePointe Corporate Center, the future home of Sealed Air’s global headquarters.

And right across the street, the CityPark development has townhomes, a hotel and apartments. Rents there run about $1,500 for a two-bedroom, and the townhomes are selling for the low $200,000s.

Now is the perfect time in the area’s development to make mixed-income living a priority.

[Agenda story: Things are finally buzzing at the old Charlotte Coliseum]

This deal is starkly different from the city’s recent actions (and inaction) on affordable housing.

The City Council just got done joining the county in giving developer Pappas Properties more than $4 million in tax rebates to subsidize a luxury mixed-use development in Midtown. No affordable housing was required.

They’ve also repeatedly violated their own policy in approving affordable housing in areas already slammed full of it. In 2015, the city council approved new low-income housing communities in the Belmont and Cherry neighborhoods, and last year approved one off Nations Ford Road. This does nothing to alleviate concentrations of poverty that have created even more inequality in the community.

This deal on West Tyvola almost didn’t happen. Two years ago, the city nearly sold this land to Crosland Southeast for a commercial retail development.

And it’s not perfect. In this case, “affordable” means accessible to a family making 120 percent of the area median income without them having to spend more than 30 percent of their budget on rent. In this piece of real estate, Charlotte could reasonably make this affordable to people making even less.

But it’s a start.

Charlotte has a goal of adding 5,000 new affordable homes in the next three years. Here’s hoping the city sticks to deals like this one rather than backsliding to old habits.

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Andrew Dunn
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Editor-in-Chief