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Charlotte Officials Again Reject Affordable Housing Funds For Brookhill

Brookhill Village has about 300 units at South Tryon Street and Remount Road in Charlotte, with rents of $500 a month or less.  A developer wants to replace it with a mixed-income development that would have 324 unit, about half of them for people with low incomes.

Local officials have again rejected funding to redevelop the run-down Brookhill Village apartment complex off South Tryon Street in Charlotte.

Developer Tom Hendrickson of Raleigh had asked for about $13 million. That includes $3 million from the city's Housing Trust Fund and $10 million from a private affordable housing fund. That revised proposal was $2 million less than one the city rejected in April.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, manages the private Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund. LISC Charlotte Director Ralphine Caldwell emailed the developer last week with the news.

"Unfortunately, the project did not meet some milestones that we felt like it was needed for funding," she told WFAE. "And it is, you know, was a very tough decision for us."

Caldwell and city officials said questions remain about the project's financing. They also want a longer guarantee of affordability for the units. And they expressed concern about both the large subsidy requested, and a complicated lease arrangement that eventually will return the property to its original owner.

Aging Apartments

Brookhill Village is an aging complex about 2.5 miles from uptown Charlotte, near the Blue Line light rail and new apartment towers in the South End. Brookhill was built as workforce housing in 1950, but the area has been an African American neighborhood since the 1930s.

Hendrickson wants to spend $65 million to redevelop the site for a mix of incomes. It would have about 324 units, about half reserved for people with low incomes.

Hendrickson warned in an emailed reply that time is running out to guarantee Brookhill is redeveloped with affordable housing. He wrote:

"This news is disappointing and heartbreaking for a number of reasons, but mostly for the people and families who depend on affordable housing in the historic Brookhill community. As you know, affordable housing for the residents of Brookhill has been central to our vision and proposal for New Brookhill from day one. New Brookhill represents the last opportunity for significant affordable housing in the rapidly growing South End area, with close proximity for working families to jobs, services and amenities in Charlotte’s center city."

Still 'Exploring All Options'

Hendrickson told WFAE Monday he was shocked when the notice came last week denying his request. He said he's still talking with city council and county commission members, and "exploring all options" to try and make the project happen with affordable housing.

"We remain in close communication with the residents, letting them know all we know. Until we can't, we're still pushing forward, hard," Hendrickson said

"But there will come point in time when we have to go seek market rate capital, and at that point, this will be a lost opportunity that will be a crying shame," Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson didn't say when that might happen.

Hendrickson said he has a $47 million loan commitment from a New York lender. But to make the project happen with affordable housing, he needs help.

If that doesn't come through, he said he would approach lenders about financing a market-rate project.

Hendrickson updated residents in a letter that's posted on the project website, NewBrookhill.com/press.

"You've got folks out there who as of Friday now have to wonder, 'Can I put up a Christmas Tree this year?" Hendrickson said.

About 143 of the 300 units remain occupied, Hendrickson said.

City housing director Pamela Wideman has invited the developer to submit revised plans again. She said the city is ready to help current residents find housing if a redevelopment goes through without affordable housing.

"We remain committed to working with our partners to address the housing needs of the people (at Brookhill) to the extent that they are willing to work with us and have a source of income to move to elsewhere," she said.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.