Housing crisis

5 Solutions to Charlotte’s Affordable Housing Crisis

The Sharon Oaks apartment complex, which has been rehabilitated as a NOAH project. Photo: Danielle Chemtob/Axios.

If what we’re doing now won’t solve the affordable housing shortage anytime soon, what can we do?

Here are some of the ideas from inside our community and beyond that experts say could make a dent.

1. Vouchers

The alternative to subsidizing developers is to subsidize tenants.

  • The federal government is allocating about 5,100 Section 8 vouchers to Inlivian, Charlotte’s public housing authority, according to spokeswoman Cheron Porter, which is a fraction of the total need.

For example: Programs like A Way Home provide vouchers as a result of insufficient federal resources. It subsidizes the difference between what families can afford and market rent for an apartment for two years.

  • Most participants earn less than 30% of the region’s median income, according to council chair Judy Seldin-Cohen.

  • More than 300 homeless families have been accommodated since its creation.

Yescorn: The city says it cannot use its housing trust fund for vouchers, according to state law, which creates a funding challenge.

  • Charlotte recently launched a rent subsidy using property tax revenue from an affordable housing owner. It is for those who earn 30% of the median area income and do not have Section 8.

2. Target FASS investments

Charlotte could devote a greater proportion of trust funds to housing residents with lower incomes.

  • Pittsburgh, for example, dedicates half of its trust fund to households at 30% of the region’s median income.

Yes, but: It’s a balance, say the developers and the city, because they want to build mixed housing that avoids concentrating poverty.

3. NOAHs

“Natural affordable housing” generally refers to apartments rented on the private market, but since they are older, they tend to be cheaper.

  • The city and the private sector have increased their investments in NOAH projects in recent years.
  • Tearing them down for expensive new developments is a lost opportunity to provide affordable units, executives say.

How it works: A developer buys an old building, receives public funds to refurbish it and keeps rents affordable.

4. A LOT more money

Brian Collier of the Foundation For The Carolinas was part of a group that authored a report on economic mobility that called for the Housing Trust Fund to be increased to $50 million.

  • “We wanted it to be much higher, but we put in a number that we thought was reasonable and could get early political support,” he says. “Now we have already proven that at current levels it is insufficient.”
  • Collier and others want to see the housing obligation increased significantly. To match the scale of the problem, Collier says, it would take billions of dollars.

And after: The city council has yet to detail plans for the housing trust fund or other municipal bonds that are expected to go to a referendum this year. Collier says there are talks about securing additional funds for a private effort the Foundation led to match the $50 million bond.

5. Acceptance

The big picture: Charlotte needs new housing at all price points to keep up with a population that has grown 20% over the past decade.

  • Yet residents often struggle with new developments in their neighborhood.
  • “Even though we had four times the money to build, we also need to feel more comfortable as a community with building more homes,” said Lee Cochran of developer Laurel Street Residential.

To note : Another component of housing insecurity is wages. But Charlotte doesn’t have the power to raise her minimum wage, which is still $7.25 an hour in North Carolina. Only state or federal lawmakers can do that.

The bottom line: There is no magic formula. But a combination of strategies targeted at those who earn the least, combined with the resources of a wealth-filled banking city, could move our city toward significant progress.

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