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 of roughly 24,000.

WFAE is taking a yearlong look at this problem through our series Finding Home. Every Monday in 2019, we’ll have stories that examine the problem, seek solutions, and bring you stories from neighborhoods small and large, both in and outside Charlotte.

Belmont has seen a lot of growth as more people move there and commute to Charlotte. It's one of many communities in Gaston County that's seen property values and rents rise in recent years.
Erin Keever / WFAE

Charlotte’s lack of affordable housing has some far-reaching ripples. Communities surrounding Mecklenburg County are growing faster, as people look farther out for homes that fit their budgets. That’s created some of the same problems Charlotte is grappling with – and some different ones too.

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. Habitat for Humanity chapters are partners, through Critical Home Repair programs, that are shifting the organization's focus away from home building and toward repairs.


Nearly one in three Americans have a criminal record according to the Justice Department. Having a conviction can make it challenging to find housing. The federal government has tried to make it easier.

Volunteers unload trash during Saturday's Pottstown community cleanup day at Torrence-Lytle School in Huntersville.
David Boraks / WFAE

In Huntersville Saturday, more than 50 volunteers joined residents of the largely African-American Pottstown neighborhood for a cleanup that also was designed to build community.

Cornelius resident Willie Jones spoke at Thursday's county budget hearing, seeking funding to develop Smithville.
Mecklenburg County Government Channel

Most speakers at Thursday night's public hearing on the Mecklenburg County budget came to praise the plan. But a half-dozen speakers from Cornelius pushed for something that wasn't included - money to redevelop the historically black Smithville neighborhood.


WFAE’s Finding Home series has focused on housing challenges and market changes in the Charlotte area. And, we’ve told you stories about some of the things being done to respond to the need of at least 24,000 affordable housing units in the city alone. But this isn’t just a Charlotte problem. 

Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE

As Charlotte’s population continues to grow at about 60 new residents a day; as rents and the cost of home ownership spiral upwards; as gentrification brings higher housing prices to neighborhoods, the city’s affordable housing stock is dwindling.

David Boraks / WFAE

For the last few years, there’s been a lot of momentum in addressing the area’s housing challenges. Affordable housing has become a priority of city leaders but as the region grows, it’s become increasingly harder to find affordable places to live. The city estimates there’s an affordable housing shortfall of 24,000 units.

Sarah Chambers and two of her kids posed for a photo on the day they moved out of their east Charlotte home in February. They sold to Zillow Offers.
Sarah Chambers

Charlotteans like to talk about how hot the local real estate market is, and for good reason. People are moving here in large numbers - 60 a day by one estimate. That means lots of homes are being bought and sold. But individuals aren't the only buyers.

Steve Harrison / WFAE

For years, the City Council’s affordable housing strategy was build, build, build.

But neighborhoods keep gentrifying and rents keep rising. The average apartment now goes for $1,205, according to Real Data – up about 12 percent in two years. And the city still has a large shortfall of affordable housing, estimated at 24,000 units.

Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE

There’s been a lot of discussion in Charlotte about how to create more affordable housing. But a lot of solutions take time. The question is where do people go in the meantime when their need is immediate?

Joe O'Connor / WFAE

A small group of protesters wearing red masks overtook a community event discussing Charlotte's affordable housing crisis Tuesday night.

Courtesy of Charlotte Housing Authority

It typically takes five to seven years of waiting in Mecklenburg County to receive the federal housing voucher known as Section 8. The voucher covers 70 percent of rent and utilities. But rising rents have created a relatively new obstacle for recipients: it’s tough to find a landlord who will accept the vouchers.

Alex Olgin / WFAE

Third-grader Naveah Taylor bounds out of Reid Park elementary school in a pink jacket and backpack. Her favorite subject is math.

“I learned about adding fractions,” she said. “You only can add the numerator but not the denominator.”

Camp North End is transforming an old factory complex off Statesville Avenue, and changing the neighborhood.
David Boraks / WFAE

Charlotte's North End is a collection of new and old neighborhoods just north of uptown with about 9,000 residents. It's seeing a flood of new investment driven by its proximity to uptown and the buzz around the redevelopment of a massive factory complex off Statesville Avenue.

City of Kannapolis

The city of Kannapolis northeast of Charlotte has seen wrenching change in recent decades. More than 4,000 jobs disappeared when the last textile mill closed in 2003 and its downtown has struggled. But in 2015, the city took matters into its own hands by buying the entire downtown. Now, residents and leaders hope a $300 million redevelopment project will bring the city back to life.

Finding Home: The Fight To Save Smithville

Feb 24, 2019
Failed NC DOT Smithville traffic diversion proposal
N.C. Department of Transportation

Residents of Cornelius’s Smithville neighborhood have endured segregation, sewage problems, civic neglect. Last year, when the state proposed a road through part of their community, few people – not even Smithville residents – would have predicted what would happen next.

Homes in Charlotte's Cherry neighborhood.
Gwendolyn Glenn/WFAE

A bleak picture was painted of the Charlotte region’s housing market in terms of affordability in a new report released Thursday at a UNC Charlotte-sponsored housing summit. Low-priced homes are hard to find as Charlotte's ever-increasing population continues to outstrip the area’s housing stock. With fewer homes available, more people are renting at higher rates.

Sarah Delia / WFAE

Throughout the course of WFAE's Finding Home series, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing gentrification and the people who are displaced from their homes and neighborhoods as a result of it. On this installment of the series, we head to a little city west of Charlotte known for its quintessential Americana downtown and Mayberry feel. 

Steve Harrison / WFAE

This is what gentrification often looks like: New $400,000 homes. Maybe a new coffee house. An influx of white people. But in Washington Heights, the early signs of gentrification have come in the mail.

Mecklenburg County’s new property assessments arrived last month, and homeowners in this northwest Charlotte neighborhood off Beatties Ford Road saw some of the largest percentage increases in the county.