Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Time for talk is over; let's act on housing

Wednesday's Observer editorial:

Anyone who truly wants to fix the problems of homelessness and affordable housing in Charlotte had to be feeling two conflicting emotions during an event on Tuesday: Hope and dread.

Hundreds of people gathered uptown to hear Mayor Anthony Foxx read a resolution declaring 2012 “The Year of Our Neighbors” and committing to making progress toward ending homelessness. They also watched a new documentary – “Souls Of Our Neighbors: Fears, Facts and Affordable Housing” – that highlighted six hard-working Charlotte families whose lives have been stabilized by affordable housing.

It was an uplifting event. The documentary was inspiring – and persuasive. It illustrated what housing experts have long known: Affordable housing (meaning, spending not more than 30 percent of one’s income on housing) is a basic building block for successful families. With roofs over their heads, lower-income people can focus on work and health. And, significantly, lower-income children can focus on their educations, and have a feeling of security that’s vital to their development into successful adults.

Thus, the hope: Hundreds of smart, hard-working, well-intentioned Charlotte residents, coming together to raise awareness about a quiet scourge of this community. An estimated 6,000 Charlotteans are homeless, and many hundreds are chronically homeless. The situation is only getting worse. The number of homeless families in Charlotte jumped 36 percent in 2010 and 21 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The numbers are expected to continue to rise this year.

Still, for many in attendance Tuesday, there was a strong sense of déjà vu. Nonprofit and government leaders have been talking about ending homelessness for years now. There have been summits and panels and documentaries and plans. Those have yielded some progress (notably, Moore Place will open this month with 85 beds for the chronically homeless), but nothing on the scale needed to solve the problem. Tuesday had the feeling of another pep rally for those who are already pepped.

Thus, the dread. This is not to minimize the importance of awareness, nor the difficulty of the problem, nor the passionate hours so many devote to it. But Charlotte has been talking about the issue for a long time. There’s considerable danger that Tuesday’s renewed public commitment to ending the homeless problem will, like similar instances, fizzle when it comes to translating it to actual homes.

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe 2012 really will be the Year of Our Neighbors. Maybe Mayor Foxx really will help lead more than proclamations this time. To be sure, Tuesday was intended to be only a kickoff to a year of progress, and it did a good job of that.

Now it’s time to act on it. It will require government agencies; might the City Council finally consider inclusionary zoning, in which developers mix affordable units with market-rate ones? And it will require help of others, including nonprofits, businesses and faith communities.

Organizers of the Souls Of Our Neighbors event use the acronym SOON. But soon isn’t good enough. How about now?


Garth Vader said...

Why in the world do you think a government that artificially pumped up housing prices for over a decade would suddenly be able to magically create "affordable" housing?

Wiley Coyote said...


I still do not see where zoning becomes the magic bullet for the homeless.

Affordable housing? Define affordable housing and I don't mean the 30% rule because it varies from area to area.

Affordable housing in San Diego or Vancouver is much more per month based on those area's median income, than my housing cost here in Charlotte.

Currently, the median income for a family of four in San Diego is $63,400. Utilizing HUD's definition, affordable housing for a low-income family (household earning up to 80 percent of San Diego area median income) (AMI), would be an apartment renting for about $1,500 per month or a home priced under $225,000. The cost would vary depending on family and unit size.

California Community Redevelopment Law requires that 15 percent of housing developed in a redevelopment project area must be affordable to low- to moderate-income households (persons earning up to 120 percent of area median income). Under this provision, affordable housing would be rental units costing up to $1,700 per month and for-sale housing priced up to about $240,000.

That's pretty good "affordable housing"..

Two blocks from my house, which is in one of the older, established Westside subdivisions, is a newer subdivision where those houses started at $79,000 dollars about 10 years ago.

Today, about half are in foreclosure, with many having been forclosed several times and are vacant, yet we need zoning for "affordable housing"?

Jack said...

A good start to affordable housing would be realistic property valuations by the county. Renters will have that passed along to them. Owners at or near 30% will be pushed over htat threshold by the overinflated values and the upcoming rate hike I keep hearing about.

Jim said...

Who pays?

misswhit said...

Do you guys read your front page articles? From today's lead story:

"Charlotte's struggle for more affordable housing already has drawn national coverage. The Washington Post last month highlighted problems with a city program that funneled millions of federal dollars to developers to build affordable homes. "Years later," the Post story began, "all the money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOME fund has been spent, but 83 houses have not been delivered. One project failed to produce a single home."

Exactly why would we expect anything different this time around?