Could apartment owners put a dent in homelessness in Charlotte?

Could apartment owners put a dent in homelessness in Charlotte?
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What would happen if apartment owners in Charlotte set aside 1 percent of their available units for people who are homeless?

That’s what Kirby Davis was in Charlotte to discuss on Wednesday morning.

Davis, the chief operating officer of property management firm Freeman Webb, spoke about his work to alleviate homelessness in Nashville at an event hosted by HousingCLT and the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association.  The event gave apartment providers in Charlotte the opportunity to learn how existing multi-family housing can be used to reduce homelessness in the community.

In 2013, Davis committed to setting aside a percentage of Freeman Webb’s apartments for the chronically homeless (meaning they’ve been homeless for more than a year or homeless four times in three years). Since then, he’s helped convince other properties to set aside 1 percent of their available space as well.

Here’s how the model works:

To live in one of the units, homeless individuals must put 30 percent of their income toward rent. To get this figure, Davis looked at the average monthly disability payment, which is between $700 and $1,700 per month. (Thirty percent of that usually comes out to about $280, Davis said, but it varies.) If a person has no income whatsoever, they’re required to pay $50 a month for rent. Housing vouchers are also given to those high on the vulnerability list.

Social workers are also connected with properties to deal with any problems that arise, and to make sure formerly-homeless residents are adjusting well.

Now, Davis said, about 65 homeless people in Nashville are able to secure housing each month through the program. There’s a retention rate of about 80 percent — some have been evicted, a small percentage have died and others moved away to reunite with their families.

Davis emphasized that this is not a venture that will bring huge profits to landlords — they’ll have to be willing to give a little.

But, he said, “You can’t do any good if you don’t take some risk.”

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