By Joe Padilla
Charlotte has an Affordable Housing crisis — it’s an undeniable fact. Our crisis is not unlike those faced by dozens of American cities, large and small, where a limited supply of land and rooftops pushes rents and home prices out of reach for many. It’s a unfortunate byproduct of our own success, driven by the growing appeal of a city that continues to attract more than 40 new residents a day with our high quality of life, temperate weather and strong job market.
What is also undeniable is that the need for affordable housing exists across much of the income spectrum. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) pegs the Charlotte MSA’s Area Median Income (AMI) right around $74,000. Using the rule of thumb that no one should spend no more than 30% of their gross income on housing, a family of four earning 80% of AMI ($56,550 a year) could pay a maximum of about $1,400 a month in order to avoid being what the government considers ‘cost burdened.’ On the lower end of the income spectrum, a family of four at 30% AMI ($35,350) shouldn’t exceed about $883 in monthly housing costs.
For any family earning below Charlotte’s Area Median Income, the challenge of finding affordable housing is very real. The City’s deficit of more than 34,000 new or renovated affordable units covers this entire spectrum of incomes — from the teachers, restaurant workers and landscapers at the upper end to the working poor toward the bottom.
There’s no silver bullet that will make this challenge go away overnight — but bold public funding investments are the most effective tool. That’s why REBIC and our member associations strongly endorse the $50 million in City Housing Bonds on this year’s ballot. The money raised through the bond issue — along with matching private investments committed by our largest corporate citizens — would go into City’s Housing Trust Fund, ensuring all Charlotte taxpayers have skin in the game when it comes to addressing our affordable housing crisis.
Some have argued that the Trust Fund should be used to exclusively address needs at the lowest end of our income spectrum, where they say it would have the greatest impact. They’ve even advocated for voting against the Housing Bond Referendum until the City commits to this strategy. But this position ignores the complex challenges of underwriting subsidized housing deals, which typically require a unit mix with rents across the income scale. And focusing exclusively on housing for families earning below 30% AMI would lead to undesirable concentrations of poverty that City leaders have vowed to avoid.
Like poverty itself, the affordable housing crisis will never fully disappear. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps that will produce meaningful results for thousands of our neighbors who need assistance. That’s why we’re asking members of Charlotte’s real estate community to vote YES for the City Bond Referendum on this year’s ballot.