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The Slow Burn of Multifamily Renovation Displacement

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Charlotte, North Carolina recently ranked as the 16th largest city in the US. Against this ranking, it came in 45th place for affordable housing vouchers issued to its residents, placing it behind many cities of significantly smaller size.

HUD records show that in 15 years, the number of allocated vouchers available nationwide to low-income residents has remained unchanged, with any increased funding most commonly going toward rent increases than toward new voucher options.

The same is true for Charlotte, where the number of housing vouchers available to residents rose by just 632 in the past ten years, as the number of affordable units dipped to just 8,400 affordable units for the more than 13,000 residents in need of affordable housing. The Charlotte Housing Authority recently stated that they had not received any new traditional housing voucher opportunities in 20 years. To put this into perspective, 129 units coming available off of Freedom Drive saw more than 1,000 residents lined up seeking housing last month, which only accounts for day one of unit availability.

When we talk about these pressing issues, most concerning is the limitation of HUD funding to inflating rental rates over more availability for an ever-increasing population of displaced and low-income residents. HUD funding has received less than its requested budget over the past several years, only adding to the problem of sustainability in housing.

Charlotte’s lucrative housing market creates opportunities for both renovation of older properties at reasonably low cost and for new development in growing areas formerly home to lower-income residents, with many capital management groups of Charlotte acquisitions being based in other states altogether and mostly detached from the growing crisis in our city.

Renovation plans across many Charlotte multifamily units in recent years has been a key predicter of displacement and increased need for affordable housing. Lake Arbor is one more profound example that has made headlines in Charlotte, with more than 200 residents receiving notices to vacate due to upcoming renovation, all at one time.

Other communities like Brookhill Village and Melrose Place in Charlotte face the potential for upcoming displacement in favor of renovation and redevelopment, creating more than 250 new residents seeking affordable housing in Charlotte. The United Way’s Laura Clark stated, “"I can't recall anything in recent years quite on this scale”, and we’re inclined to agree when we look at the number of displaced families increasing exponentially in Charlotte every year.

When we consider the expected cost of living for residents in older multifamily communities in particular, renovations can create a staggering increase to typical rental rates and direct displacement as a result of full-unit renovation, without the ability to qualify for or afford other renovated units across the same property. Based on the previously stated shortage of affordable units in Charlotte, the result can ultimately mean an immediate need to apply and potentially wait up to 7 years for a housing voucher. The struggle of finding multifamily properties that accept these vouchers to begin with is a beast of its own, with source of income not qualifying as a protected class in Fair Housing legislation.

So how do we address this issue? Freedom Communities hones in on the Freedom Drive corridor, an area rife with new development and plans to create a new hub for housing and entertainment for incoming residents. Preserving affordable property and fostering an environment of growth and empowerment is possibly the most pressing set of needs in communities facing the current housing crisis. Through our resources and our community partners, we hope to reduce the profound impact of a housing market gearing to leave low-income residents behind.