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Housing Panelists Say Zoning Can Promote Or Squelch Affordable Options

Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt (right) was one of several speakers at Thursday's Building The Dream event.

The power of zoning and regulations to encourage or squelch affordable housing was a theme that came up repeatedly Thursday at a Building the Dream housing forum in Charlotte.

The Hill, a national political news source, brought elected officials and experts to the session at the Mint Museum, which was sponsored by National Association of Home Builders.

Congressman Ralph Norman of South Carolina and North Carolina state Sen. Paul Newton, both Republicans, said local zoning and excessive regulation can make it difficult to build affordable homes.

Newton, who represents Cabarrus and Union counties, said burdensome regulations are behind the limited supply of low-cost housing.

"It adds cost, and you talk about density issues and minimum lot sizes -- it a root cause if not the root cause," he said.

"The last subdivision we did, 41% were from regulation costs," said Norman, a developer. 

Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt, a Democrat, suggested it’s time to consider relaxing the single-family zoning codes that push up costs.

"So that is something that is very powerful that a lot of cities are looking at: Do we start talking about not having R3, which is three dwelling units per acre?" she asked.

Eiselt said increased density could be especially helpful along transit lines, such as the future Silver Line.

"I don’t think we should be afraid of saying let’s be able to put a duplex there, or a triplex," she said.

Eiselt said afterward any changes to single-family zoning would likely be part of the city's Charlotte Future 2040 vision plan. The city has been working on it for a year, with a draft expected this fall and approval in 2021, she said.

Staff from The Hill said they came to town because of Charlotte’s efforts to build affordable housing – as well as its future as the Republican National Convention host city in August.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.