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City Staff Rejects Housing Funds For New Brookhill Project

City housing director Pamela Wideman briefs the council on affordable housing during Monday's virtual meeting.
City of Charlotte

City housing officials have recommended spending $15 million from the Charlotte Housing Trust Fund to support nine projects this year. Most council members Monday night were unhappy that one project wasn't on the list - the redevelopment of the run-down Brookhill Village, off South Tryon Street. 

City housing director Pamela Wideman told council members she could not recommend the $65 million New Brookhill redevelopment. Developers there wanted $4.5 million from the trust fund, as well as a $10 million loan from the private Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund, which works alongside the city on affordable housing.  

Wideman said the New Brookhill development team - which includes several people who work locally in housing - lacks experience and may not be able to raise bank financing. She also said there's no guarantee that the apartments would remain affordable after a lease on the property runs out in 27 years.  And she pointed to the developer's request for an additional $5.3 million in city money for street and site improvements. 

That disappointed many council members. Most said they hope the city will continue negotiating with developer Tom Hendrickson, who had proposed making more than half the project's 324 units affordable. 

Hendrickson has said if the city and the private fund don't help fund the project, he won't be able to include affordable housing. That would leave nearly 280 current residents without a place to live. Rents at Brookhill are some of the lowest in the city - $500 or less for a two bedroom apartment.

An architect's drawing of the proposed 324-unit New Brookhill complex. About half the units would be for people with lower-incomes.
Credit New Brookhill
An architect's drawing of the proposed 324-unit New Brookhill complex. About half the units would be for people with lower-incomes.

What council members like about the proposal is that it would keep some affordable units in an area of the city that's changing rapidly. Council member Braxton Winston asked Wideman how the city could pass up a chance for affordable housing so close to uptown and South End. 

"Staff is seemingly suggesting that we displace these residents and completely gentrify Brookhill, a neighborhood with historic value. Is that that we would seriously recommend for this council?" Winston asked.  

Wideman responded that the city plans to work with the United Way to assess residents' housing needs. She compared it to a joint effort among social service agencies last year to find housing for residents displaced by redevelopment of Lake Arbor Apartments, on the west side.

"Because we did not recommend it, we have partnered with the United Way, to go out and really understand the needs of the residents and to help them get into a more suitable housing condition based on their current housing need," she said.

Wideman said later that she still needs to work out details of the partnership. She plans to meet with United Way officials Tuesday. 

After the meeting, the developers issued a statement saying they will work with the city: 

"The people of Brookhill deserve safe, decent, affordable housing. Meeting the affordable housing challenge in Charlotte will require creative solutions and strong leadership. The New Brookhill development team is committed to doing our part to work with city leaders and community partners over the next few weeks to find timely ways to support affordable housing in New Brookhill."  

The council is scheduled to vote April 27 on the nine recommended developments, which would create 1,349 new affordable units around the city. About one-third of those units would be reserved for the most needy tenants, those who make less than 30% of the area median income (about $24,000 for a family of four). 

Among the projects is a 194-bed expansion of the homeless people at the Men's Shelter of Charlotte.

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.