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Charlotte Observer: Affordable Housing Project Halted In Elizabeth

A controversial affordable housing project that would have brought over 100 homeless adults and families into the Elizabeth community has been halted due to a lack of financial backing. Organizers made the decision after determining the apartment project at 333 Hawthorne Lane wasn't eligible for an expected $4.5 million in local government dollars for homeless housing. That essentially crippled the plan, which the nonprofit Supportive Housing Communities estimated would cost a total of $7.5 million. Pam Jefsen, head of Supportive Housing Communities, said the project is not completely dead, but the best hope for now is that private donors will come forward and fill the money gap. Plans called for creating 80 apartments within a former nursing home, for use by disabled homeless people, including those recovering from addictions. Rather than a shelter, the apartments would be permanent supportive housing, with an array of services to help the tenants stabilize their lives. The Elizabeth Community Association decided in an "initial vote" to oppose the project, but left open the option of revisiting their decision. Association leaders said their chief concern was for the safety of children at adjacent Elizabeth Traditional School, Independence Park and several preschools. Residents also noted it would be the third homeless project to open in Elizabeth in recent years, including a 50-bed overflow shelter for the Center of Hope. Beth Haenni, vice president of the community association, said reaction among neighbors has been divided on the cancellation. "The first person I ran into was deeply disappointed and mourning the loss," she said. "Other people have been relieved. I think it's a mix, which is representative of the neighborhood's sentiment as a whole." Jefsen believed community meetings had begun to soften opposition to the project. However, she is the one who suggested further meetings be cancelled. "One thing I promised the people in the community was that we'd be honest with them, and that led us to say that this doesn't look promising enough to continue the conversation," said Jefsen. Her nonprofit does not retain an option on the 50,000-square-foot building, so the property's future is up for grabs, Jefsen said. Supportive Housing Communities continues to operate the McCreesh Place apartment community for disabled homeless men in the North Davidson area, and is pursuing another project in the Hickory Grove area. Copyright 2012 The Charlotte Observer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.