Charlotte companies turn attention toward affordable housing issue

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Affordable housing, widely regarded as among Charlotte’s most pressing social justice issues, is getting attention from a big bank and a major developer.

Wells Fargo is pledging $20 million to help house more people of low and moderate incomes. That pledges include a $5 million grant to the Foundation for the Carolinas’ Housing Opportunity Investment Fund. The bank also plans to expand its Charlotte Neighborhood LIFT program with $6 million in payment assistance grants for homebuyers, plus donating $9 million over the next three years to support local community development organizations.

Taylor Wanbaugh | Business North Carolina

Crescent Communities CEO Todd Mansfield

Charlotte-based Crescent Communities plans to donate 4.5 acres of land worth $2 million for the construction of affordable housing at its River District mixed-use development in west Charlotte. Developer Laurel Street, which specializes in affordable-housing projects, will lead the effort for Crescent, which in July was acquired by a Japanese investment firm, Sumitomo Forestry Ltd.

River District is near the Catawba River and Charlotte Douglas International Airport and is intended to draw investment and residents to an unpopulated part of Mecklenburg County. The first phase is likely to include more than 120 rent-controlled properties among the 606 multifamily and 60 townhomes planned for the project.

CEO Todd Mansfield said River District construction is slated to start in 2020. 

“This will be a comprehensive community, a place someone wants to live,” says Dionne Nelson, president and CEO of Laurel Street.

The foundation is hoping to raise $50 million for its housing investment fund. It previously committed $5 million, while Wells Fargo’s pledge doubles the amount raised. The foundation’s donation is contingent upon passage of a $50 million housing bond referendum facing Charlotte voters in November.

Taylor Wanbaugh | Business North Carolina

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles

“We’ve heard from the private sector, so now it’s time to hear from our voters,” says Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles. “Making housing available for people who work in our city makes a huge difference.”

Affordable housing refers to households with annual median income of less than 120% of an area’s average who spend less than 30% of their pre-tax income on rent and utilities, according to a recent report by UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. About 76,000 renter households in Mecklenburg County spent more than 30% of their gross income on housing in 2016, the institute said.

The county has a shortage of at least 22,000 affordable housing units while almost all of the 27.000 apartments planned in Charlotte are aimed at higher-income renters, the Charlotte Observer reported.

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