Beyond apartments, Charlotte affordable housing fund may support for-sale homes

·5 min read

For the first time in the history of the Housing Trust Fund, Charlotte leaders will consider directing funds to build affordable houses that can be sold to families otherwise priced out of home ownership.

Though the 32 homes represent a small share of the nearly 900 units Charlotte City Council will vote on later this month, it marks a new era for the trust fund, which historically has been used to build new affordable apartments.

But in recent years city leaders have pushed for a broader use of the fund to include buying and preserving “naturally occurring affordable housing” or NOAH units and for-sale housing to promote home ownership.

The developments presented to the council for consideration Monday night is the most varied portfolio in the fund’s history, with five new apartment complexes, two NOAH properties, and two developments of for-sale housing.

They total 879 units, including 226 priced for households earning up to 30% of the area median income, or up to $25,250 for a family of four.

If approved, the combined $23.3 million request would leave a little more than $9.4 million in the fund until the next bond referendum, prompting City Manager Marcus Jones to say Charlotte’s $50 million “may not be enough.” The referendum, where voters will decide whether to approve the city borrowing funds against tax revenue, is scheduled for the November 2022 election.

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Best way to fund housing

This round of funding is a sign of more investment in priorities in the city’s housing strategy: preserving existing affordable housing by keeping apartments out of the hands of investors looking to buy them and raise rents, and increasing access to home ownership.

City Councilman Larken Egleston, who represents District 1, praised the addition of for-sale options.

“Creating that generational wealth for people to pass down to their children and grandchildren through homeownership,” he said, “is going to continue to be the way that we can mitigate displacement (and) mitigate a lot of the effects of gentrification.”

Three of the project requests exceed the $3 million per-development limit that has applied to previous trust fund awards.

Earlier this year, some council members noted the last round of funding included no recommendations from Districts 6 or 7, which represent wealthy areas in south Charlotte.

Pam Wideman, the city’s housing director, said more money is needed to build where land is more expensive, like those districts.

Shamrock Gardens Apartments, the development with the largest financial request in the pack by far, represents the largest number of units preserved in a NOAH property to date, Wideman said. Older units like these are at risk of being lost to investors who buy them, renovate and raise rents that push out current residents.

The east side apartment complex also currently has “the most affordable rent of any market rate property in Charlotte today,” according to Wideman, with rents between $450 and $600.

“Not only are we keeping people in place ... this is one of your truest forms of anti-displacement (work),” she said.

Wideman said Atrium Health plans to bring a full-time community health worker on site for wellness activities and referrals.

Several projects are also requesting funds from the private Charlotte Opportunity Investment Housing Fund, which also funds affordable developments.

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Is $50 million enough?

The prospect at leaving only $9 million in the bank for 2022 revived a familiar, recurring debate around affordable housing in Charlotte: is it better to put fewer units in more expensive neighborhoods considered ‘high opportunity,’ or use the money for more units elsewhere.

At-large Councilman Braxton Winston said he worried the council would run out of trust fund money to do critical housing work before the next bond referendum.

“How do we fund these things moving forward knowing that we don’t have a sufficient Housing Trust Fund dollars to maintain the type of solutions that we want and that are needed,” Winston said.

In 2020, voters overwhelmingly approved another $50 million for the fund, as they did in 2018. Previous two-year bond cycles sought $15 million going back nearly two decades.

Jones said there are ways to keep funding housing efforts outside of the trust fund, including possible allocations from the city’s share of federal American Rescue Plan funds.

The council is expected to vote on the nine projects at its Sept. 27 meeting. They are:

  • Aldersgate Apartments, 3900 Shamrock Drive: Laurel Street Residential is requesting just under $3 million from the housing trust fund and $3 million from the private fund to build 136 senior and family apartments.

  • Ballantyne Senior Apartments, 15201 Ballancroft Parkway: Laurel Street Residential is requesting $4 million from the trust fund to build 82 senior apartments.

  • Eighth and Tryon, 426 N. Tryon St: Horizon Development Properties, a division of Inlivian, is requesting $3.2 million to build 106 apartments next to the planned Seventh and Tryon site in uptown.

  • Galloway Crossing, 8300 East W.T. Harris Blvd: The Woda Group, Inc. is requesting nearly $2.5 million from the trust fund to build 78 senior apartments.

  • Historic Nathaniel Carr, 2498 West Blvd: The Paces Foundation is seeking $2.2 million from the trust fund and $2 million from the private fund to build 120 senior apartments.

  • Maple Way Apartments, 1012 McAlway Road. Ascent Housing is seeking $1.4 million from the trust fund and $1.55 million from the private fund to renovate 60 affordable units near Wendover Road.

  • Shamrock Gardens Apartments, 3379 Michigan Ave. Ascent Housing is seeking $6 million from the trust fund and $6.4 million from the private fund to renovate 265 units.

  • Bishop Madison, 1947 Bishop Madison Lane. Urban Trends Real Estate, Inc. seeks $320,000 from the trust fund to build 10 for-sale homes prices for households 61-80% AMI.

  • Druid Hills Legacy Duet Homes, in Druid Hills. DreamKey Partners seeks $704,000 to build 22 for-sale homes for households 61-80% AMI.

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