CREW Charlotte February 2017 Luncheon: Affordable Housing: Why it Matters to Everyone
Submitted by Robin Haddock
On February 14, CREW Charlotte hosted a panel of housing experts who provided an overview of affordable and workforce housing needs, and discussed challenges of meeting those demands in today’s real estate market.
Moderated by Robin Haddock of RLH Development, panelists Caroline Chambre Hammock of Urban Ministry Center, Liz Ward of The Housing Partnership and Tim Hose of Synco Properties provided an overview of those struggling to find housing that meets the definition of affordable – spending no more than 30% of gross income on rent and utilities – from the homeless to those working full time but earning less than Charlotte’s median income of $67,000 annually.
Ms. Hammock provided an overview of Housing First, a program aimed at ending chronic homelessness, that Urban Ministry Center has implemented at Moore Place, a 120-unit supportive housing development in Charlotte. While construction and ongoing operations for Moore Place rely on grants and charitable donations, it has been documented that it costs just under $14,000 annually to provide housing and supportive services to a formerly homeless person that would otherwise cost tax payers nearly $40,000 per year for emergency room visits, incarceration, and other emergency services if left unhoused.
Ms. Ward indicated that more than one-third of households in Charlotte can afford rents of only $900 or less, while the options for housing at that rent level are shrinking. The Housing Partnership primarily relies on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and City of Charlotte Housing Trust Fund to close the gap created by offering affordable rents that can support much less conventional debt.
Synco Properties is in the planning stages of a total redevelopment of The Colony apartments in South Park. Mr. Hose explained that his company has volunteered to offer 5%, or 55 units, out of the total 990 units to be developed as workforce housing, meaning they will be restricted to households earning 80% of the median income or less. Synco Properties will receive no financial incentives for offering these units and, in fact, will lose $600,000 per year in revenue by voluntarily reducing the rents for these 55 units.
All the panelists agree that there are many barriers to providing affordable housing that is also well located near amenities, services, jobs and public transportation. The costs and limited availability of land, a lack of adequate gap financing or other financial incentives, neighborhood opposition, and the time needed for rezoning and other regulatory reviews are among the issues faced by developers.
The topic of affordable housing has been at the forefront in Charlotte recently, and our panelists hope that the conversations and problem-solving continues. For those interested in learning more about the struggle to adequately house all members of our community, the following resources might be of interest:
Books: “The Hundred Story Home” by Kathy Izard; “Same Kind of Different as Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore; “Nickled and Dimed – On (Not) Getting by in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich; “Rachel and Her Children” by Jonathan Kozoland; and “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond.
Video: “Souls of our Neighbors” – A video discussing facts and myths about affordable housing in Charlotte. Produced by MeckMin, the video is available for purchase online. The trailer can be seen at: http://www.meckmin.org/souls-of-our-neighbors/
Crisis Assistance Ministry offers a Poverty Simulation workshop that provides an opportunity to walk in the shoes of low-income individuals and the hard economic choices they face. More information is available at https://crisisassistance.org/poverty-simulation/be-an-advocate/.