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City Council Asks Public: Where Does Affordable Housing Belong?

The Charlotte City Council has chosen this summer to tackle one of its most controversial policies that governs where new subsidized housing can be built. They held the first in a series of public forums on the topic last night. The "Affordable Housing Locational Policy." It's a mouthful. And it's also pretty tough to get your head around in a 90-minute public forum. But Pat Mumford says even if people don't understand the details of the policy, their feedback is important. He's head of the city's Neighborhood and Business Services office. "We're asking people to just weigh in on what's important to them for their neighborhood," says Mumford. "What do they think about affordable housing? Maybe an emotional response." "Emotional" pretty much sums up the reaction from two Charlotte neighborhoods recently targeted for new affordable housing. Both projects were stopped by the public outcry - and one was in Ballantyne where last night's forum was held. But the tone last night was much different. Most of the 40 or so attendees were advocates for the low-income community or residents like Charlene Hendricks who say they welcome new affordable housing in their neighborhoods. She lives off Old Providence Road in South Charlotte. "When they were trying to put affordable housing in my neighborhood which is right across from Providence Racquet Club, people thought that it was going to tear down the neighborhood, gonna be a lot of crime, the property gonna go down - none of that happened," says Hendricks. "I just think people need to know that. They're fighting something that is not even happening and I think it has more to do with prejudice-ness." Part of the reason for these public forums is to debunk some of that prejudice. Mumford started off the meeting showing photos of new subsidized developments in Charlotte. He was trying to illustrate how much they've improved since the days of soulless cinderblock housing projects. Today they almost always include a mix of income levels and support services like job-counseling, as well as full-time management on site. "The modern subsidized low-income housing shouldn't be considered a detriment to any neighborhood," says City Councilman Warren Cooksey, who represents South Charlotte. Cooksey is actually leaning toward getting rid of the locational policy entirely because it "creates a stigma around subsidized low-income housing." "A locational policy says it's bad for some areas and good for others," says Cooksey. "So how do you make the case for areas that's perceived as being good for that it's good for them really, when it's perceived as being bad for other areas." The proposed new policy would allow government-subsidized affordable housing to be built in any neighborhood the city considers "stable." That's determined by income level, property ownership, crime rates and other factors. Charlotte's stable neighborhoods are mainly south of Uptown and in a ring around the city's outer edge. In the coming weeks, a public forum will be held in each quadrant of the city to solicit feedback on that proposal. Upcoming public forums on the city's Affordable Housing Locational Policy: Tuesday, July 27 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church (6050 Hickory Grove Road) 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at Vance High School (7600 IBM Drive) 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday, August 9, 2010 Mount Carmel Baptist Church (7237 Tuckaseegee Road) 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday, August 16, 2010 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center (600 E. 4th Street) 6:30-8:30 p.m.