I believe we have reached that moment where Charlotte can make a real impact on affordable housing. But those who care about this issue must closely watch what happens next. We must make all of our voices heard — including the voices of people who need affordable housing — to help ensure that good intentions turn into substantive action.
We’ve got momentum. Bank of America, Ally Financial and Barings have just announced a combined investment of $70.75 million in affordable housing. The package includes $50 million in low-interest loans for developers, donated land, plus money for economic mobility programming and a proposed housing investment fund.
That’s an exciting start. The fact that CEOs from three different financial institutions joined together for this effort shows real leadership. Now we need developers to step up. The low-interest loans are yours for the taking. If you care about this community, take them.
We also need other sectors of the business community to make affordable housing for their workers a priority. Even small business owners can be influential by speaking up at zoning hearings in support of affordable housing in their neighborhoods.
3 questions that need answers as the community tackles affordable housing
What about the households with the lowest incomes?
The financial institutions’ package is intended to create housing for people with 30 to 120 percent of our area’s median income, or AMI. What about households under 30 percent AMI, the family of four living on less than $25,000 a year? Yes, this is the most challenging aspect of affordable housing, but we cannot ignore it.
We need more targeted housing strategies to help people at this income level find and keep affordable housing. Economic strategies must be in place to help them enhance their skills and earn more than 30 percent AMI. One idea: The Leading on Opportunity report suggested creating a local rent subsidy fund. Let’s discuss what it will take to make that happen.
Will we preserve existing housing?
In affordable neighborhoods on Charlotte’s west side and elsewhere, $400,000 houses are starting to replace the modest homes where families have lived for years. We need the city to create incentives to keep existing affordable housing in place. We also need to support the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Authority in its efforts to create attractive housing for lower-income residents that blends well with surrounding neighborhoods.
Will city leadership be transparent?
City leaders have already received proposals for 620 new housing units to be built using money from the Housing Trust Fund bonds. What is the city’s criteria for selecting the winning projects? How will people who need affordable housing be involved in the selection process?
Of everything I’ve heard this year on affordable housing, I’m most encouraged by words from former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl this week: “I’m sure that developers are just waiting to help us, but, if they don’t, we’ll create our own development company.”
We will need that kind of drive and innovation to push forward on affordable housing in 2019.
Floyd Davis Jr. is president and CEO of Community Link, a Charlotte nonprofit that enables individuals and families to obtain and sustain safe, decent and affordable housing. Reach him at email@example.com.