Searching for solutions for Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis

Houses being built
Monday, May 16, 2022

With rents and home prices shooting up to record levels, it’s not news that finding a place to live in Charlotte is getting more expensive. Last week, the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative brought together local and national experts, advocates and community members in search of policy solutions that could help ameliorate the situation.

One takeaway: There’s no silver bullet, no single solution or policy that will quickly make housing cheaper and easier for residents to find.

You can see a recording of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative’s summit below. An agenda with time-stamps for each session is included at the end of the article.

Here are three takeaways from the day

  1. When it comes to government policy, an all-of-the-above approach from local governments is in order. The days of the federal government subsidizing affordable housing on a huge scale or building and owning big public housing complexes are long past. Only 1 in 4 families that qualify for Section 8 housing choice vouchers receive any subsidies. Local governments are now absorbing most of the burden. They have limited resources but more flexibility.
    Experts said local governments should examine everything from increasing their own subsidies (like Charlotte’s Housing Trust Fund) to selling vacant land at below-market prices for affordable housing.

  2. Look to creative solutions and density to help increase supply. One of the reasons housing is so expensive now is that the supply of for-sale houses and the vacancy rate for apartments are at or near all-time lows. With demand high, that has the effect of rapidly increasing prices.
    Experts recommended allowing denser and smaller housing in neighborhoods (the oft-discussed “missing middle,” such as duplexes, triplexes and bungalow courts), embracing ideas like community land trusts, and creating denser zoning areas to allow more construction. In Charlotte, that’s reflected in the new Unified Development Ordinance and Transit-Oriented Development Zones. It’s also an approach recommended in President Biden’s housing plan released this week, which includes incentives for areas that promote denser zoning and remove barriers to building housing.

  3. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. North Carolina’s status as a Dillon’s Rule state means that the state legislature has the final say on what municipalities can and can’t do. That means many of the policies available in other states – such as rent control and mandatory inclusionary zoning – aren’t available to municipalities in North Carolina. Housing policy discussions in Charlotte often turn into discussions about what municipalities can’t do, rather than what might be possible.
    Panelists called for Charlotte and other municipalities to examine policies such as forbidding landlords from discriminating based on the source of a renter’s income (a practice which often turns away Section 8 voucher holders) even if the final legal status of those policies isn’t yet settled.

Speakers, Panels and Timestamps from the Video

  • Radical Ideas To Tackle Affordable Housing; Guest Speaker: Nate Berg
    • 26:45
  • Interrupting Displacement In Charlotte; Interviewer: Lauren Lindstrom, The Charlotte Observer
    • 1:13:20
  • Understanding Housing Laws & Regulations; Interviewer: Lisa Worf, Wfae 90.7 FM
    • 2:35:50
  • Solutions: What’s Possible When Community, Philanthropy And Journalism Work Together To Affect Change
    • 4:36:50
  • Impact Of Investment Companies On Charlotte’s Housing Stock; Interviewer: Diego Barahona, La Noticia
    • 5:51:30