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City OKs 950 Affordable Apartments, But Not All Will Get Built

The Charlotte city council voted Monday night to help finance 11 proposed affordable apartment projects around the city. But only a handful likely will move forward this year. 

The city asked developers last winter to propose affordable apartment projects that would be eligible for subsidies through the city's Housing Trust Fund. Most of the 950 proposed units are in north and southwest Charlotte. Monthly rents would start just under $400 dollars, making them affordable for people making less than 60 percent of the area median income (about $42,000 a year for a family of four) -  the city's biggest need right now.

The council action means the city could eventually spend up to $16 million on the units that get built.  It comes as the council pursues a goal of approving 5,000 affordable housing units by 2019. City Housing Director Pamela Wideman gave this update last night: 

"I'm proud to report that we are currently....72 percent of the way there. And if approved tonight, you have the opportunity to add up to 550 units to that count," Wideman said. 

Council member Lawana Mayfield introduced the discussion on Housing Trust Fund requests.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
Council member Lawana Mayfield introduced the discussion on Housing Trust Fund requests.

Those 550 units are only a portion of what the council approved. That's because not all the projects will get built - at least not right now.

Nine of the projects are competing for 9 percent state tax credits. City officials say only three will make the cut when the state Housing Finance Agency announces its picks in August. They'll cost the city  about $6.8 million.

Two other projects will get 4 percent state tax credits - which aren't competitive. Thanks to the council action, the city will provide financing subsidies totaling $9.5 million.

The votes followed an hour-long debate filled with worries and frustrations that the city still isn't doing enough for those at the lowest income levels. At one point, Mayor Vi Lyles tried to steer the discussion back on track. 

"We've all said this is very complex. And one of the things that's shown by us talking about this and not being yet on the same page shows how complex it is," she said.

It's about to get even more complicated. The city will have to cobble together the $6.8 million it needs to fund the three projects expected to win 9 percent state tax credits. Some of that will come from unallocated federal funds and other sources. And the city will spend the last $1.4 million in its Housing Trust Fund. 

That's a whole other problem. The housing fund is replenished every two years by bonds approved by voters. In past years, the referendums have totaled $15 million. But city officials are now discussing whether to boost that to $50 million this November.

Meanwhile, city housing officials say they'll pay for the other $9.5 million with either money from the general fund, or by tapping that yet-to-be approved bond referendum -  however large it ends up. 

Arthur Griffin addresses Charlotte City Council.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
Arthur Griffin of the Black Political Caucus addresses the city council.

Four affordable housing advocates addressed the council before the vote. One was former CMS board chair Arthur Griffin, who now chairs the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

"We have the most enlightened city council in a half-century with respect to this issue. And I look to you to approve a comprehensive, diverse price-point housing policy and strategy," he said. 


See a list of projects and a presentation with details of the Housing Trust Fund requests on the city website