Charlotte wants to use its vacant land to tackle the city’s affordable housing crisis

·4 min read

Six city-owned properties across Charlotte may be transformed into affordable housing, the latest effort to create more homes in a city where rising land costs make that difficult.

A separate city-owned property might forge part of a mixed-use development, and two more properties are under consideration for affordable housing, Assistant City Manager Brent Cagle told City Council on Monday.

The presentation marked Council’s latest attempt to remedy an acute affordable housing crisis in Charlotte, particularly for low-income families.

The city weighs a range of factors when deciding if land is suitable for affordable housing, including proximity to transit and jobs. But rising land costs, particularly in those desirable areas, often make that difficult. Using city-owned land is one strategy in Charlotte’s housing framework.

Properties could be developed with rental and for-sale homes, including apartments or townhouses. But Charlotte doesn’t want to limit developers’ “creativity” as it seeks proposals, said Pam Wideman, Charlotte’s housing and neighborhood services director.

Wideman said the city intends to pursue long-term leases — for at least 50 years — with possible developers for rental developments, or transfer ownership of for-sale home developments. Developers could bid to build on the land in November.

Several Council members were skeptical if the properties could deliver the intended results, including Renee Johnson, who urged staff to ensure “we’re considering this from an equitable perspective” among competing developers.

And Council member Greg Phipps asked Wideman what took so long for the city to review the land for affordability. The housing director partly attributed it to recent collaboration across city departments and previously unsuccessful developer bids.

Vacant city-owned land, comprising roughly 24 acres, could be turned into affordable housing units across Charlotte.
Vacant city-owned land, comprising roughly 24 acres, could be turned into affordable housing units across Charlotte.

Land cost concerns

Land costs are often a make-or-break ingredient to affordable housing developments.

While the city’s policies for housing investments prioritize areas of “high opportunity,” which include access to transit, employment and other services crucial to upward economic mobility, land costs in those areas are often significantly higher.

It’s an issue some Council members took note of when they approved the most recent round of Housing Trust Fund allocations. While council approved $22.2 million for up to 14 developments, none are in Districts 6 or 7, which include wealthier areas of south Charlotte.

Half of the six proposed vacant parcels presented Monday are in Districts 6 or 7.

Wideman said the city previously identified nine public-owned properties in 2017 and three in 2019 for affordable housing, including 9 acres transferred to Habitat for Humanity to build 47 homes on Morris Field Drive. And city-owned land in notoriously expensive uptown was part of the deal to build 105 apartments next to Little Rock AME Zion Church, a project that broke ground in April.

Prospective properties

Here’s a closer look at the six properties for affordable housing, comprising roughly 24 acres:

North Wendover Road (near June Drive and Coldstream Lane): Nine parcels on 7.5 acres; appraised at $690,000. There are already townhouses in the area, Wideman said, and similar for-sale affordable homes could work well there.

Providence Road West (along Ballancroft Parkway): One parcel on 2.6 acres, though Wideman estimated only 1 acre can be developed; appraised value $1 million. The city is taking the lead on rezoning this property, with land leftover from a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department station, Wideman said.

Newland Avenue (along Lincoln Heights Court and Newland Road): One, 1.34-acre parcel; appraised value $90,000. Wideman said the site could be good for affordable for-sale homes.

University City Boulevard: One 1.75-acre parcel; appraised value $1.3 million.

Archdale Drive (near Little Sugar Creek): One parcel, 6.4 acres; appraised value is not known yet. “This is one we know is challenging going in, so we may or or may not get any takers on this...” Wideman said, citing road access and topography issues near the creek. “We think that this could be a great opportunity if we can determine how to develop it.”

South Boulevard: One parcel on 4.54 acres; appraised value $1 million. Wideman called it an “ideal site” ready for development along the LYNX Blue Line. It’s one of two sites donated by the Brooks family, of the Brooks’ Sandwich House in NoDa.

Other potential properties

Property with mixed-use potential:

England Street (near East Arrowood Road and Old Pineville Road): One 15.64-acre parcel, though it’s unclear how much can be developed; appraised value $2.5 million.

Cagle said this site, adjacent to the South Boulevard property, could become a mixed-use development along the Blue Line.

These properties need more review:

Eureka Street (Double Oaks): One parcel on 11.1 acres; appraised value $3.1 million. Cagle said this property already has a conceptual plan outlining affordable housing with mixed-use development options.

Statesville Avenue (near North Graham Street and Dalton Avenue): One parcel, part of a larger 10-acre panel that will need to be rezoned, Cagle said. Likely only 6 to 7 acres will be available for housing, potentially with mixed-use options, he said.

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