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Affordable housing location and funds on city council agenda

Charlotte's approach to creating more affordable housing for low-income residents has taken some hits recently. High profile opposition to projects in two neighborhoods has officials looking to rewrite the city's policy on where affordable housing can be built. How to fund the projects is another matter entirely. Both issues are on tonight's city council agenda. Charlotte has a policy that limits how much affordable housing can be built in certain neighborhoods. The idea is to spread it out and promote economic diversity. But the policy was last updated in 2001 and Charlotte has changed a lot since then. "We've urbanized as a community," notes Pat Mumford, director of Neighborhood and Business Services for the city. As a result of that growth, Mumford says most new projects are being built in existing neighborhoods. "And that's where we're seeing much of the discussion around projects that people don't want near their homes," says Mumford. Such opposition recently helped sideline a development in Ballantyne and is threatening another project in Southwest Charlotte. Tonight the Charlotte City Council will set a timeline to revise the policy and likely agree to hold a series of public meetings on the changes. Mumford hopes that will help head off neighborhood opposition to new projects. Funding those developments is also a challenge. The city council currently plans to ask voters to approve a $15 million bond this November to build new affordable housing. That money will have to last four years. A coalition of homeless services agencies says it's not enough. "We're asking for $30 million," says Liz Clasen-Kelly of the Urban Ministry Center. "Just like roads and sidewalks are important pieces of infrastructure, housing is a vital piece of the infrastructure in our community." Mumford agrees, but hopes the city's $15 million bond will attract other investment from the federal government and private donors. "I firmly believe that we can't argue for more dollars without having a structure in place and having a track record that shows we're doing all we can do with what we have," says Mumford. "And there's some work that can be done there - some improvement." To that end, Mumford has proposed disbanding the volunteer board that recommends how the housing bond money is spent. Tonight the city council will move forward with creating a new board that will oversee affordable housing and the city's efforts to end homelessness.