Opinion | Why I’m working to pass the bonds, again

Charlotte voters will decide whether to approve nearly $200 million in bonds for affordable housing, neighborhood improvements and transportation projects.
Sam-Smith-city-bonds

This year marks my third local bonds campaign. I keep coming back because I embrace the opportunity to push for our city to continue to invest in itself and ultimately create a vibrant place for all of us to live and enjoy. I like being a voice about the importance of the bonds and the long-term benefits that happen when voters approve them.

It’s especially gratifying to encounter countless residents who appreciate the range of improvements in their communities, from sidewalk repairs to greater housing opportunities. Most times, these residents do not know it all came together because of the bonds they supported. 

On the Nov. 3 ballot, voters are asked to approve three bond referenda: 

  • $102.7 million for streets: for street and intersection projects, upgrades to the traffic control system, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements, measures to improve pedestrian safety, and repairs and construction of bridges, sidewalks and bikeways. 
  • $50 million for housing: building quality and well-maintained affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households through new construction and preserving existing housing. 
  • $44.5 million for neighborhoods: for sidewalks, streetscape, curbs and gutters, storm drains, landscaping, and pedestrian lighting in the city’s established neighborhoods and emerging high-growth areas. 

Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities and is now the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States. We are growing in population and are always competing for major corporations to relocate here. Sustaining healthy growth and momentum requires continuous investment in infrastructure. Streets, intersections, curbs and other facilities need constant maintenance and improvement to operate safely and efficiently.

Over the last several election cycles, support for street bonds has delivered many such improvements across the city. I am particularly proud of the bridge over I-85 that connects Research Drive to J.W. Clay Boulevard in the north, which has created a connection point for residents to have easy access to shopping and entertainment in that area. 

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The 2020 neighborhood bond will support investments in six targeted corridors: Beatties Ford Rd./Rozzelles Ferry Rd, Central Ave./Albemarle Rd., Freedom Dr./Wilkinson Blvd., I-85/West Sugar Creek Rd., North Tryon St./Graham St. and West Boulevard. There will be funding for intersection enhancements, sidewalks, bike lanes and pedestrian safety, as well as measures to link neighborhoods with employment centers, parks, transit and schools. 

Bonds have also been vital to our city’s efforts to provide adequate affordable housing. The 2019 Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability and Homelessness report showed a 23,060-unit gap of rental units for low-income households in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and that these families faced many barriers to accessing available permanent and affordable housing. On the Nov. 3 ballot is $50 million to help provide such housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families in Charlotte. Previous support for housing bonds helped make many projects possible such as Tall Oaks Redevelopment and renovation of the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. 

Voter-approved housing bonds go to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), which is administered by the housing services division of the city’s housing and neighborhood services department to provide financing for affordable housing. Since its inception, the HTF has financed more than 9,000 new and rehabilitated affordable housing units. Of that total, 4,029 were for households earning less than $25,050 per year — making Charlotte more affordable for preschool teachers, health care aides, and workers in hospitality, retail and emergency services. 

For the city to continue to be progressive and attract new talent and companies, we must have the proper infrastructure and vital, healthy neighborhoods. We must continue to invest in affordable housing and take other steps to ensure that Charlotte is an inclusive place for all of us to live, work and enjoy. Regardless of political party affiliation, I think we can all agree on these points.

Charlotte doesn’t get everything right, but I’m a big believer in the city and its people. The opportunity to shape our future in some small way keeps drawing me and other dedicated volunteers back to bond campaigns. I hope voters will once again reward our efforts by approving all three bond questions on the ballot. 


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