Should access to safe, affordable housing in Charlotte only be available to those who earn the most? Should our teachers, police, firefighters, school bus drivers and service providers be shut out from living in the community they serve? Should children of lower income families have to worry whether they have to move again because their apartment's rent increased, or whether their parents have enough money left over after covering housing cost to put food on the table. I don't believe they should, but unfortunately, these are very real concerns for far too many in our community.
The lack of affordable housing in Charlotte ripples across our city, creating a host of problems for our entire community. Too often, those at the lowest end of our economic spectrum must live in substandard, unsafe housing or become homeless. Whether you believe that everyone should have access to quality housing or not (I do), housing instability in any community directly impacts EVERYONE. Housing instability perpetuates a vicious cycle of generational poverty by burdening the children of these families with insurmountable obstacles to succeed in school. It creates physical and mental health issues that impact the families and the entire healthcare system. It increases crime which then puts additional strain on our police force. All of which increase the cost of managing our city. We should address the cause of these issues, rather than the symptoms they create.
The Charlotte Housing Trust Fund has never had sufficient resources to address all of these housing challenges. However, it has been in important and invaluable tool to address continually rising housing costs and, without prior year's investment of Housing Trust Fund resources, thousands of our neighbors would be without quality housing. The passage of this year's bond referendum will not only provide for an infusion of $50 million into affordable housing, it will also bring an additional $50 million match from the private sector (a structure that our city is championing). This provides us with the opportunity to change the lives of our fellow Charlotteans who are most in need. That is why we need to vote yes on the housing bonds.
Since 2002, the city has funded more than 6,200 multifamily housing units. Forty percent of those units were for the benefit of households earning below 30% of the area median income ("AMI"), which equates to $15,600 for an individual or $25,100 per year for a family of four earning.
Over the same period, the city has invested in 16 of The Housing Partnership's apartment communities, which provided 1,329 affordable units. Of these, 18% benefited individuals and families earning 30% AMI, and 99% are for those earning 60% of AMI or less than $31,140 for an individual and $44,460 for a family of four. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in these affordable communities is $789, substantially less than the current city average of $1,169.
Those of us who develop or invest in affordable housing know the need is greatest for those who earn the least. However, we also know that rental rates tied to their incomes, $300-$400 per month, do not cover the cost of building or maintaining these communities. There needs to be a mix of incomes and rents in order to allow the apartment complex to work, as well as to ensure that poverty is not concentrated in one location. Creating healthy, thriving communities is good for Charlotte and a sound investment of the city's resources.
In order to clearly outline the objectives of this housing fund, City Council recently passed a new housing framework with goals to expand the supply of affordable and workforce housing. The framework details a commitment that new affordable housing developments provide units for residents with extremely low incomes.
Affordable housing is a complicated, but a vital piece to any healthy, growing city. We cannot have a thriving city, without addressing the housing needs of all its residents / families. And it is impossible to provide this housing when there are insufficient funds available to create them.
We have a new city council and a new opportunity to address these crucial community challenges. Stay engaged in the issue. Hold City Council accountable; members are up for election next year. As a parent of three young children, a volunteer for an affordable housing non-profit and a proud Charlottean who believes in supporting a thriving community, for all of its residents. I proudly voted YES on the housing bonds and so should you.