Finding Home

Charlotte has an affordable housing crisis. We hear that a lot and for good reason. Consider these numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau: Since 1990, home values have increased 36%, while median household income has only gone up 4%. The appearance of prosperity with new development masks the fact that people are being priced out of their neighborhoods.

The city has made some progress in the last few years. It’s added about 5,000 affordable housing units. But there’s still a shortfall — a Mecklenburg County analysis showed a gap of at least 43,000 affordable housing units for renters making less than 50% of the area median income

WFAE is taking a look at this problem through our series Finding Home. Every other Monday in 2020, we’ll have stories that examine the problem, seek solutions, and bring you stories from neighborhoods small and large, both in and outside Charlotte.

Greg Jackson runs the group Heal Charlotte, which wants to buy a hotel off I-85 for a transitional housing campus.
David Boraks / WFAE

The group Heal Charlotte was founded after the police shooting of Keith Scott in 2016 to improve police-community relations. This year, it's been helping people with food and housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the group has an ambitious plan to buy a hotel to help solve the city's affordable housing crisis. 

Since March, homeless residents have camped at 12th and College streets just east of uptown.
David Boraks / WFAE

People living on the street is nothing new in Charlotte. But the coronavirus pandemic has brought encampments into the open, including onto vacant lots near uptown. They're both a highly visible effect of the pandemic and a reminder of Charlotte's longstanding shortage of affordable housing. 

Thousands of North Carolina residents are in danger of losing their homes as courts begin issuing eviction orders again this month. The threat is amplified for immigrants here illegally, whose status disqualifies them from government programs that could help pay the rent.

MARY NEWSOM / FOR WFAE

Here's a recipe for an avalanche of evictions: The state's moratorium on evictions amid the coronavirus pandemic is over. Eviction courts have reopened. Unemployment remains high and federal benefits are running out.

Air Force District of Washington

Two rent due dates have passed since North Carolina’s stay-at-home order went into effect. The state has put a hold on evictions until at least June 1. But millions of workers remain without jobs as the state slowly reopens. And not everyone has received their relief check from the federal government. This is putting a growing strain on renters and landlords and raising questions about what can be done legally to keep people in their homes. 

Angelina Freiert and her family live at the InTown Suites in Matthews.
David Boraks / WFAE

Long-term residents of hotels and motels who have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic face a weekly struggle to pay the rent. Hotel managers who want their money are using a variety of tactics to try and collect.  Attorney General Josh Stein warns some of those may be illegal.

Mary Newsom/UNC Charlotte Urban Institute / File

Normally about one in five renters in this country don’t pay their rent in a given month, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. In April, it was almost one in three. It’s a dramatic shift nationally in who’s missing what for many is the biggest expense they have.

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

Developers planning to redevelop Brookhill Village off South Tryon Street are seeking nearly $20 million in public and private support for the project, which would include both affordable and market-rate apartments. The Charlotte City Council will get a briefing Monday and could vote later this month on the request, which would end years of uncertainty about the future of the community.

COURTESY OF THE RELATIVES

Finding housing can be tough even when you have a reliable job and a good credit score. It can be an even bigger challenge for a portion of the population that lacks rental and credit histories and stable income — young adults. Add the rising cost of rent to that list, and the deck can be stacked high against 18- to 24-year-olds trying to find a safe and secure place to live.

Platform Lofts are under construction on North Tryon Street, across from the Old Concord Road light rail station. Rents will be $600 to just over $1,000 a month. They're being developed by affordable housing developer NRP Group of Cleveland. (David Boraks
David Boraks / WFAE

A big factor in Mecklenburg County's affordable housing crisis is simple economics: The population is growing faster than the housing supply. To some experts, the solution also is simple: Build more housing of all types. But zoning and other regulations, as well as lengthy permitting processes, can make that difficult. So Charlotte officials are talking about how to lower those barriers.

Da'Monique Leggett is getting housing help and career training through a new program that tries to improve outcomes for students by supporting their families.
David Boraks / WFAE

Here's a No. 1 ranking you don't want: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leads North Carolina with the largest population of homeless students — more than 4,700 last year. A new program by two Charlotte agencies aims to help some of those students by getting their families into stable housing and higher-paying jobs.

ANN DOSS HELMS / WFAE

Eight years ago, a dramatic symbol of Charlotte’s quest to fight homelessness opened. It was called Moore Place, an apartment building that provided homes for 85 people who had spent years on the street.

As a new decade dawns, plans are afoot to try it again in a new site. Looking back at the victories, setbacks and lingering challenges provides a hint at the future.

Charlotte skyline
James Willamore / Flickr / ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We are beginning the second year of our affordable housing series, Finding Home. In 2019, we had a story nearly every Monday on the Charlotte area’s affordable housing crisis. In 2020, Finding Home airs every other Monday on "Morning Edition," And we start with today’s guest, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.

Nicole Seekely chairs the Hulsey Yard Study Committee in Atlanta, where neighbors support redevelopment of a big vacant rail yard, including affordable housing.
DAVID BORAKS / WFAE

A frequent obstacle to developing affordable housing is NIMBY, which stands for "not in my backyard." Neighbors bombard elected officials with concerns about traffic, crime and demand on city services as they try to halt new developments. Often, they succeed in blocking developments.

But in some cities, there's now a growing pro-development movement called YIMBY — for "yes in my backyard." 

ANN DOSS HELMS / WFAE

Hidden Valley Elementary School serves a small northeast Charlotte neighborhood just off Interstate 85. But every morning’s car line includes taxis and shuttles bringing children from much farther away.

Quinn Kampschroer / Pixabay

With the colder weather, the need for shelter space to help the homeless is greater this time of year.

Gwen Sherrill and her great-grandson, Cali Williams, 3, pose on the porch of her home on Potts Street in Davidson. She recently got $18,000 worth of repairs with help from the town and Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.
David Boraks / WFAE

Affordable housing efforts across the Charlotte region often focus on building new homes. But the city of Charlotte and surrounding towns increasingly are working to preserve existing housing so it's not lost to gentrification.

Jasmine Johnson and her family now have a rental house in west Charlotte.
David Boraks / WFAE

One of Charlotte's biggest housing stories this year has been the effort to find homes for hundreds of displaced residents at Lake Arbor apartments in west Charlotte.

West Side Community Land Trust staff and board members tossed dirt to start the project.
David Boraks / WFAE

The West Side Community Land Trust has broken ground for its first home as part of a long-term plan to fight gentrification in west Charlotte. It's a small step toward a goal of establishing 50 long-term, affordable units in the area — on land the community owns.

Charlotte Talks host Mike Collins talks with Vanessa Phillips (center) and Stephanie Little during a public conversation on affordable housing at the Gantt Center last week.
Jeff Cravotta / WFAE

All this year, we’ve brought you stories each Monday that look at the Charlotte area’s affordable housing crisis. Our Finding Home series has had stories that examine the scope of the problem and what’s being done about it. There have been stories of hope, and stories of despair.

Jeff Cravotta

Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

How do we help Charlotte's most vulnerable residents? Queen City voters said "yes" last year to a $50 million bond that would ease the city's lack of affordable housing. What's happened since then? We bring you a special "Charlotte Talks" Public Conversation about where affordable housing stands now. 

ANN DOSS HELMS / WFAE

Hidden Valley Elementary School serves a small northeast Charlotte neighborhood just off Interstate 85. But every morning’s car line includes taxis and shuttles bringing children from much farther away.

KATE TOWNSEND / UNSPLASH

WFAE has spent a lot of time looking at the pressures around the availability of affordable housing as part of our series Finding Home. This week, we’re turning our attention to another part of that equation — income.

Platform Lofts are under construction on North Tryon Street, across from the Old Concord Road light rail station. Rents will be $600 to just over $1,000 a month. They're being developed by affordable housing developer NRP Group of Cleveland. (David Boraks
David Boraks / WFAE

A report out last month from Mecklenburg County is chock full of numbers that describe the housing pressures facing renters in and around Charlotte. 

A homeless man sleeps in a bus shelter on East Trade Street during last May's Speed Street Festival uptown.
David Boraks / WFAE

A new report from Mecklenburg County calls for more coordination and resources devoted to helping those most at risk of losing their homes.

Dashiell Coleman / WFAE

Charlotte is facing an affordable housing crisis. Both the city and Mecklenburg County are growing, and as more people move in, the housing supply is dwindling. Lower-income families are hit the hardest.

Charlotte Housing Authority manages the federal Section 8 housing voucher program.
Courtesy of Charlotte Housing Authority

Last spring, as part of our weekly Finding Home series, WFAE reported on problems with the federal Section 8 housing voucher program in Mecklenburg County. Vouchers help pay rent and utilities for qualifying low-income residents. But the county doesn't have enough vouchers to go around, and fewer landlords are taking them.  Charlotte Housing Authority manages the program and is trying to improve the situation.

Amy Anderson lives in northwest Charlotte with her son, Aaron, 13. Their business AnderBerry Bracelets is their main income source, and making the monthly rent is a struggle.
David Boraks / WFAE

Mecklenburg County's annual report on homelessness and housing instability shows that despite some progress, the need for lower-cost housing continues to rise in the Charlotte region. The new numbers are a reminder of just how acute the shortage remains, especially for residents at the low end of the income spectrum.

MARY NEWSOM / FOR WFAE

It’s a Friday morning in late August, and Nikeia Diaz waits with others outside courtroom 2350 at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. What happens in court today will determine whether she and her 4-year-old lose their apartment in northeast Charlotte. This is Eviction Court, and it happens almost every weekday.

A homeless man sleeps in a bus shelter on East Trade Street during last May's Speed Street Festival uptown.
David Boraks / WFAE

Mecklenburg County's affordable housing crisis is worsening, especially for people of color and at the lowest income levels, according to a new study of homelessness and housing instability. 

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