It’s become an iconic counter-image to the boomtimes all around us in Charlotte: a sign held up at a city council meeting sounding the alarm: “I Can’t Afford To Live Here.”
This is the face of the affordable housing crisis in the Charlotte region, where rapid growth and accelerating demand is pricing out residents with the fewest resources, including people of color and working class residents affected by skyrocketing rents, property values and taxes, and the increasing problems of displacement and gentrification.
As cities like San Francisco can attest with its impossible housing costs, few factors have more influence on the kind of city Charlotte will become than the ability to find a safe and affordable place to live and work, interact with your neighbors and community, and raise a family. That’s why this issue is starting to get such attention from government, business and non-profit groups.
Few issues are as difficult to solve, however, inter-twining property rights, zoning, transportation, business decisions, educational quality, politics and equity, plus the legacy of a long history of housing discrimination still deeply embedded in our neighborhood patterns.
That’s why in-depth understanding of the underlying issues is so important. And why equally in-depth analysis of possible solutions is essential, to help illuminate the choices ahead, the work needed to solve this problem.
That’s also why the Solutions Journalism Network and the Knight Foundation teamed up to form the new Charlotte Journalism Collaborative a few months ago. And why the group selected the affordable housing issue as the initial focus for the reporting work we will publish over the coming year.
This is the introductory story for upcoming series of reports by the partnership of six major media organizations: La Noticia, The Charlotte Observer, WCNC-TV, QCity Metro, WFAE 90.7FM and QNotes, as well as the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Free Press, a community-engagement organization. The group is expected to grow over time to include other media organizations as well.
Working together, our journalists will report on how Charlotte’s crisis emerged over the years, on possible solutions in new zoning and planning tools, new ideas for funding affordable housing such as land trusts and school-based teacher housing, success stories of neighborhoods embracing the benefits of affordable housing in their areas, successes in building senior-focused LGBTQ housing and a lot more.
We’ll also engage in community meetings and discussions around these issues, seeking ideas from Charlotte residents most affected by the affordable housing crisis on how best to cover this issue, what solutions would work for them. And we’ll take deep-dives into the best ideas on how other communities facing similar problems are tackling them and making an impact.
We look forward to this journey.
Michael Davis, SJN South Region Manager
Neil Mara, Project Editor