The city of Charlotte is hoping to jump start affordable housing efforts by expanding programs to to buy land, sell off city-owned parcels to developers who include affordable housing, and donating land to nonprofits. Affordable housing has become an issue in Charlotte as rent and home sale prices have gone up by a third over the past few years. Studies say the city needs about 24,000 affordable housing units for people making less than 50% of the area’s median income. As the population has spiked, half the supply of older and cheaper housing options have vanished.
The city is asking voters to approve $50 million worth of affordable housing bonds in November that would subsidize affordable housing development for the next two years. That’s more than a three-fold increase over the current $15 million worth of bonds. Private entities have started other initiatives to pitch in as well: Crescent Communities is donating $2 million worth of land for affordable housing at its River District development, while the Foundation for the Carolinas is trying to raise $50 million to match the city’s housing bonds, including $5 million pledged recently by Wells Fargo.
But with Charlotte’s population growing rapidly, investors buying and renovating or demolishing old apartments, and housing construction still lagging its pre-recession highs, market forces are likely to push the cost of housing higher for the foreseeable future. Some city council members said they like the plan, but say the city needs to be even more proactive moving forward. “We’ve got to start buying land along our transit lines,” said Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt.