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Charlotte Offers New Incentive To Build Affordable Housing

City of Charlotte

City leaders believe Charlotte has a shortage of housing that's affordable to families making less than $54,000 a year. Monday night, the city council is expected to approve a new zoning ordinance aimed at changing that. WFAE's Julie Rose reports:

Not only do city officials want more affordable housing – they want to spread it around more. This new ordinance only applies to more affluent regions of Charlotte where the median home value is over $153,000 and zoning already allows for a higher-density development.

Basically, we're talking about some neighborhoods in south Charlotte and on the outskirts of town.

"The idea is to allow this to be an incentives where there is not a lot of affordable today," explains city Housing Services Manager Pamela Wideman.

The plan is to entice companies that build only market-rate properties to get involved in offering affordable housing. Developers who agree to charge lower prices on a handful of new homes or apartments will be allowed to build a slightly larger project than would typically be allowed.

While many in the development community say it's worth a try, Chad Hagler of Woodfield Investments has his doubts.

"When you have affordable units in a property there is a loss of income forever, and receiving a density bonus to allow you to build a few more units doesn’t necessarily change the economics of a development to the degree that will you know entice us to build those affordable units," says Hagler, who is also president of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association.

Hagler says a far better incentive would be for the city to waive some of the fees and environmental restrictions associated with building apartment complexes. The city council is not considering either of those things. 

But there is another way to prompt more affordable housing: the city could make a few such units mandatory in any new development. Hagler doesn't recommend that in Charlotte, but he says Washington, DC has just such a mandate and it did force his company to include affordable housing in a new project there.

Thus far, the Charlotte City Council is not considering that approach.