Let’s Improve Affordable Housing in Charlotte

Over the last few months, the Charlotte Housing Authority has identified a need to expand the affordable housing options in Charlotte and has been holding a number of forums to gauge feedback.  The proposed locations of the new complexes has resulted in fierce resistance who are opposed to public housing in Ballantyne or in Arysley.

I completely understand their NIMBY (not in my back yard) perspective when it comes to this type of complex however I think that the city of Charlotte could gain support for the project by implementing a few key measures. 

1. Make it good looking and green.

Having grown up outside Washington DC for 18 years, I have been through my share of "affordable housing" complexes and one word come to mind: disposable.  While the exteriors may have been brick, most used cut-rate materials, were loud, obnoxious, and ugly properties.  Why does it have to be this way?

Affordable housing should take into consideration that people who will eventually live and own that property.  That means that every step should be taken to ensure that the residents are not spending every last penny on inefficient housing.  Therefore, not only should every housing structure and complex have character and style, it must be green and highly efficient.  A good example would be the housing that Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation is building in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans.  

Each home incorporates green features like solar panels on the roof, energy efficient windows, spray foam insulation, metal roofing, and even laid out in a way to allow for maximum natural ventilation to minimize the use the of air conditioning.  The result is a utility bill that is only for the tax and regulation: less than $20 a month. 

2. There must be a clear path to ownership.

Homeownership creates strong communities as a result of every homeowner having the common interest of bettering their community.  Renters, on the other hand, are more transient in nature – never staying in a property more than two years.  Often times, the landlord is a corporation of individual with few ties to the community.  The result can be higher crime and lower quality of living.  

Affordable housing should provide residents with the a pathway to ownership and investment in their community.  This can be accomplished by providing counseling, job training and placement, etc.  This is where the faith-based community can step up to provide these services at little to no cost to tax payers.  

3. Consider the future owner

Often times, lower income residents utilize public transportation as their main source of transportation on a daily basis.  While Ballantyne and Arysley both have adequate bus facilities, it would seem to make sense to build along the light rail corridor, preferably within walking distance, to cut down to cost to the future resident.