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Mecklenburg commissioners mull how to counteract companies buying thousands of houses

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Chris Miller
/
WFAE

Mecklenburg County commissioners are trying figure out how to counteract the impact of Wall Street-backed companies buying up so many houses in the area. They heard from experts and mulled their options this week.

Mecklenburg County has seen one of the largest shares of homes bought by these investors. County commissioners have heard a lot of complaints from people who say they can’t compete with cash offers above the asking price and historically Black neighborhoods concerned about gentrification.

Several commissioners said at a meeting Tuesday the county needs to do something to counteract that.

“This is a racial justice issue. This is a social justice issue. This is civil rights issue that we have to address,” said County Commissioner Mark Jerrell.

Commission Chair George Dunlap said he doesn’t want to leave people with unrealistic expectations.

“I know you guys want to do what the community wants you to do and they’re raising Cain… and you’re all for it. But the reality of it is, you can’t do this,” said Dunlap.

The county attorney told commissioners the county doesn’t have much authority to make policy to directly impact corporate home sales. However, there were other suggestions to deal with the situation like buying land through land banks and offering it at less than market value with deed restrictions to preserve affordable housing.

“There are options that are available outside of solely policies and there are options available of getting control of the supply,” said Charis Blackmon of the West Side Community Land Trust.

Commissioner Leigh Altman said she knows there’s a lot the county cannot do when it comes to corporate-owned house rentals, but she wants clear guidance on what the county can do.

"If we are not careful and we just sit back, we are going to find ourselves in a situation where so many of our residents can never get on that rung of homeownership," said Altman.

Other suggestions that came up were educating HOAs on how to cap single-family rental properties in communities and asking the General Assembly to de-incentivize corporate-owed house rentals.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.