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Charlotte agencies struggle to find homes for local Afghan evacuees

Afghan evacuees board the final outbound flight to the United States from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 30, 2021.
Senior Airman Milton Hamilton
U.S. Air Force
Afghan evacuees board the final outbound flight to the United States from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 30, 2021.

Some 300 Afghan evacuees are due to arrive in Charlotte over the next few months, but the vast majority of them may not get to move into a place of their own once they arrive.

Local agencies that are resettling the evacuees in Charlotte say they're struggling to find affordable homes and apartments for them due to a tight housing market that has seemed to become even more limited over the last year and a half.

Before the pandemic, staff with the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency could usually find an available unit for a refugee in the span of a business day, said the agency's executive director, Marsha Hirsh.

That's no longer the case.

"It might take several weeks of calling on and off to identity an apartment, and then if there is one available, the apartment itself might not be available until several weeks later," Hirsh said.

Hirsh said the agency had committed to resettling 100 Afghan evacuees in Charlotte. As of Friday, 40 had arrived, but the agency had only found one home so far that was available for a family.

With the exception of that family, Hirsh said nearly all of the other evacuees were staying with family or friends who live in the area — known as their U.S. ties — as the agency searches for more homes.

Sandy Buck with Charlotte's Catholic Charities said her agency has also been struggling to find affordable units for evacuees.

"There are no available apartments," Buck said. "We're willing to take anything that we can find at this point."

She said Catholic Charities had committed to resettling 200 evacuees around Charlotte. So far, 66 have arrived, but Buck said the agency has only found four available homes.

Buck said the majority of Afghan evacuees that Catholic Charities was working with did not have U.S. ties, and the agency was paying for them to stay at a local hotel — something the organization has never had to do in its 40 years of resettling refugees around Charlotte.

Both Catholic Charities and Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency said they hoped by getting the word out, more landlords might come forward to offer homes or apartments for rent. The remaining 200 or so Afghan evacuees are expected to arrive in Charlotte on a rolling basis over the next few months.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal