Affordable housing often lost to new development

Affordable housing often lost to new development

CHARLOTTE, NC — It happens more than you may think. A developer buys a property, kicks out the residents, then demolishes it and builds something more expensive.

Lupal Clyburn has seen Charlotte change over the five decades she's lived here, but over the past two years, it's her life that has become dramatically different. She says the landlord forced her mother out of her house in Charlotte's Belmont neighborhood so a newer, more expensive, property could be built.

Clyburn took in her mom and nephew but she says the move turned out to be too stressful for her elderly mother.

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"She didn't last. We moved here in February and she was gone in May," she said.

Now, on her mother's old street, new houses sit next to old ones. Clyburn worries that someday already existing affordable homes will no longer exist. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles says it happens way too often.

"We don't want people to be homeless just because of a 30-day notice," said Lyles.

It's one of the reasons the city is putting an increased emphasis on what's known as "naturally occurring affordable housing" - cheaper and older properties that were built decades ago at market rate and remain much more affordable for families.

Councilmember Dimple Ajmera took us on a tour of St. John's Place. The newly-renovated complex in east Charlotte serves some of Charlotte's lowest-income residents, but at one point was at risk of being torn down because of shabby conditions. Housing non-profits worked with the city to purchase the property, renovate it, and add a deed restriction to ensure rent will remain only a couple hundred dollars for years to come.

"It uplifts a neighborhood, helps turning dilapidated building into an asset, and preserves affordable housing. It is a win-win for all," said Ajmera.

But, it is a lot harder for the city to intervene on single-family homes. Mayor Lyles says the focus then has to be on housing for the displaced.

"If the landlord is not working with us, then we have to have new places to go," she said.

That means investing more in not only new units, but also already existing ones for families of all incomes and all sizes.

Lyles hopes to form an advisory committee that would find already cheap properties for the city to preserve as affordable housing - that's if voters in November approve her request to increase the housing trust fund from 15 to 50 million dollars.