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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Charlotte's Affordable Housing Debate vs. NC Senate Bill 810 (Videos)

(N.C. Senate Bill 810) N.C. State Law Prevents Charlotte City Officials From Denying Public Housing In Ballantyne

N.C. State law says some neighbors' concerns about a proposed Affordable Housing project in Ballantyne doesn't matter when it comes to voting for approval or denial.

N.C. Senate Bill 810 was signed into Law by Gov. Bev Perdue last fall.

The new Legislation says a development can't be denied simply because it contains Affordable Housing.

It means meetings like one held past Monday at Harrison United Methodist Church are good for airing concerns -- and that's about it.

Warren Cooksey represents the Balllantyne area on the Charlotte City Council.

He listens to his constituents, but says his hands are tied on the vote, thanks to the New Law.

"We run the risk from either side, depending upon what the vote is of Legal Action, saying you didn't do this right," said Cooksey.

Warren Cooksey says the evaluation whether it's an appropriate land use is the issue, not the impact on neighboring property values and not potential concerns about crime.

Police say some of the most crime-ridden areas in Charlotte are Affordable Housing neighborhoods.

At Ballantyne Crossing, about one-third of the 86 units are proposed low-income.

"If crime is perceived to be a shorthand for a perception of Affordable Housing, we are prohibited from Discriminating against Affordable Housing in a land use decision," Cooksey said.

To ease neighbors' concerns, the city says they can request conditions to the agreement, like requesting improved roads, sidewalks, green space and lighting.

People who are in favor of the Ballantyne Crossing complex say there's a need for Affordable Housing for people who work in Ballantyne, who want to live there as well.

Hundreds Of Charlotte Citizens Turn Out Against Ballantyne Affordable Housing Project

The meeting started inside while people were still lining up outside. Hundreds showed up to hear more about a proposed public housing complex in the Ballantyne area. One by one, they fired questions and comments at the developers, Republic Development Group:

"What experience do you have creating something like this?"

"Can you not find a more suitable place than what is the southern gateway to our community?"

"Where I'm coming from is I don't want it here.

My house is over one million dollars and I don't want the crap next to me."

The project took a hit Monday afternoon when the Charlotte Housing Authority issued a statement that it would not participate in the mixed income housing development.

"Questions about certain aspects of the project's structure, including its Density (the total number of apartment units relative to the cost of the land) and funding, prompted our decision," said Jennifer Gallman with the Charlotte Housing Authority.

"We keep going," said Stuart Proffitt of Republic Development.

Proffitt says he still hopes to build the 86 unit complex with another affordable housing developer. A representative from the Crosland Company told News Channel 36 the developer has asked if Crosland would manage the property if it were approved.

One man, who asked not to be identified, said he believed this was a case of "not in my backyard." "I live on the West side and this will be pushed to some other part of town," he said.

But opponents say that's not the case. They point to the fact that the proposed site, south of Ballantyne, off of Johnston Road, has no easy access to public sidewalks, little public transportation and already overcrowded schools.

Cynthia Jennings lives in the Ballantyne area. "People who live in low income housing want the same thing we all do. A nice place to live for their families. But the way the developer came in, through the back door, was sneaky and shady," she said.

Southwest Charlotte Neighbors Move To Block Low-Income Apartments

A proposal to build 90 apartments for working class families is drawing criticism and resentment from homeowners who would live near the development.

More than 4.5 acres of land near the northeast corner of Westinghouse Boulevard and South Tryon was purchased for the rental homes last December.

About 200 residents of the Ayrsley community filled a meeting room Tuesday evening for what the project's developer called a "courtesy meeting".

Several of the homeowners carried signs which read "Save Ayrsley" and "No Low Income Housing"

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, a non-profit agency, would build the two and three-bedroom apartments for families who make less than $32,000 per year.

"We don't have people who are just goofing off," said Patricia Garrett, the agency's president. "They have jobs. They go to school."

Garrett said neighbors are often misinformed about affordable housing communities. She said her managers often screen prospective tenants more thoroughly than at other, privately-run apartments.

Still, some Ayrsley homeowners told NewsChannel 36 they are concerned about the potential impact of more rental units in a community with an abundance of vacant apartments and town homes for lease.

"Build more when you have vacancies all over? "It doesn't make sense," said homeowner Monica Ainslie.

Because another 52-unit apartment community for low-income families, Summerfield, is less than a half-mile from the proposed site, developers must ask Charlotte's city council for permission to build the new apartments. The city's development rules are designed to prevent a heavy concentration of subsidized housing in one neighborhood.

"Nobody here is opposed to Subsidized Housing," Ayrsley homeowner Lauren Widrick told NewsChannel 36. "It's the violation of city council's policy in regard to clustering subsidized housing."

Garrett said her agency believes an additional 90-unit apartment community is not unreasonable for the area and is needed to provide housing for families who cannot afford to lease a home at the market rate.

Vacant apartments in Ayrsley are not eligible for the federal and state tax credits which would pay for most of the $10 million project, she said.

Council is expected to vote on the apartment community next month. An exact date has not been set.

Charlotte City leaders will also be asked to approve $1 million from the city's Housing Trust Fund for the development.

Council member David Howard is a vice-president with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership and part of the development team for the proposed apartments. He said Tuesday he will recuse himself from council's decision.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, North Carolina General Assembly, WCNC, Google Maps

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