When I was in high school, I had to help my mom find a place that would let us stay there using our Section 8 voucher. It quickly dawned upon me that this was not a happy, let’s go look at all the homes in our mind and see which one best fits our needs process. My mom told me that we had a certain amount of time to find a place that would let us use our voucher before we lost it. I remember going through this process and being so upset at everything because I felt it was unfair that we had the money, but still could not have access because of stigma. Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents are socioeconomically separated into areas with people who attain similar levels of education and income as them. That means in most cases in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, someone's level of education ultimately determines the amount of income you make and the quality of house they can lease or buy.
Currently in Charlotte, there is a growing 32,000 affordable homes deficit that is perpetuating segregation and continuing to create less opportunity for low- and middle-income communities. That means over 55,000 Charlotteans do not currently have an affordable place to live and over 3,000 residents are experiencing homelessness. Furthermore, 45% of tenants in the Charlotte market are cost burdened, or spend more than a third of their paycheck, to pay their rent. These trends that continue to rise. In order to create more triumphant communities and deflate the price of the Charlotte housing market, the City of Charlotte must begin to outpace the building of housing units and the creation of housing options juxtaposed to that of the number of units we need to house per income level per year. Once activity begins to occur in the market, demand will increase. This demand can only be driven by a housing market that embraces the ability for landlords to offer an array of housing options that are accessible for residents across all income levels in our city. As demand increases and we continue to outpace the construction of housing with different options, the price of housing will begin to consolidate and enter a sustained period of deflation. This solution is what I refer to as Housing for All.
The United Nations projects that the City of Charlotte will be the fastest growing area in the United States through 2030. Typically, in America, as population grows in a city, the cost of the region tends to increase and as the cost of the region increase, the demand for housing decreases because current residents cannot meet the inflated price point. That means a large supply of empty houses stay on the market inflating the price of housing, while homelessness, displacement and gentrification rises. Since we build affordable housing out of a response to scarcity of resources, we are unable to develop the resources we need to build more affordable housing. Affordable is an ambiguous term that may mean a myriad of things based upon the amount of income a person makes. That ambiguity must be considered when creating a more affordable region. There is a substantial need to build our supply of housing at market rates for residents that make less than $47,000 or under 80% of the area median income for our city.
The Charlotte City Council adopted a ten-goal framework called the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan on June 21, 2021. It will guide growth and development in the City of Charlotte for the next two decades. Goal three of that plan is Housing for All and will ensure opportunities for residents of all incomes to access housing. This goal will enable the City of Charlotte to investigate new city-wide regulatory programs that require or incentivize development of affordable housing in mixed-income developments, in standalone affordable housing developments and in targeted neighborhoods. It will also enable city staff to advocate for changes in state law that hamper the development of affordable housing, or that block City efforts to increase the stock of affordable housing like eliminating exclusionary zoning and fully banning source of income discrimination. The Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan is exactly what the City of Charlotte needs to develop new tools for city staff to use for more affordable housing and to lead the charge in passing enabling legislation for mandatory inclusionary zoning. This plan will help to ensure that every Charlottean, no matter their ZIP code, can eat, work, and play where they sleep. To find out more about goal three of the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan, click here!