Hundreds stand in cold, rain to apply for affordable housing at new development

CHARLOTTE — Hundreds of people stood in line in cold and rainy conditions for hours Monday outside a new affordable housing development in hopes they could land a place to live.

People were applying at the Mezzanine at Freedom, which will have 185 units.

Affordable housing is something many said is needed in Charlotte, which is why so many people showed up at the apartment complex off Freedom Drive.




“The crowd here today shows you the need for affordable housing is growing and the demand is huge,” said Julie Porter, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership.

Developer Marsh Properties donated nearly 8 acres to help the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership build the mixed-income apartments.

“I am on Social Security disability, but I am a retired school bus driver, but I am not of age (where) I can get my retirement,” applicant Jeanette Lewis said.

Some applicants were happy they were told to return.

Brianna Santiago, who is a mother of two, said she didn’t mind standing in the wet and chilly weather.

She's hoping to move out of her mother's house into a place of her own and a brighter future for her children.

“It would mean a lot for them to have their own space and their own room,” Santiago said. “We have my own room. It’s tight where we are now. Something to call our own. That would be a big thing for us.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership said 1,300 people paid the $25 application fee Monday to try and secure a spot.

“This was pretty overwhelming and certainly a visual representation of the need, which I don’t think we’ve ever had before,” Porter said.

Porter said while the number of people was overwhelming, the kindness by those who waited in the rain was a sense of comfort.

“A person in line who didn’t have the $25 application fee, and the person behind him in line gave him the $25,” Porter said. “It was quite amazing actually, in a situation where people are all waiting for the same thing, and really hopeful, it was great to see.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership said all applicants should have an answer in 30 days.

If they don’t get a spot, Channel 9 learned they will get the option to be put on the waitlist for the complex or their other 24 properties in the Charlotte area.

Families can apply if they make 30%, 50%, 60% and 80% of the area median income.

For a family of four, that’s $23,700 a year to qualify for the 30% units.

The city of Charlotte is also putting work into addressing the affordable housing crisis.

The City Council made it a focus at its annual retreat earlier this month.

A senior economist for Wells Fargo told the council trends are shifting away from developing luxury apartments to creating affordable ones in the suburbs.

Residents will be able to start moving into an apartment in March after their applications are approved.

Woman struggles amid affordable housing crisis

Some people in Charlotte said they're being forced out of their homes because rent prices are skyrocketing.

"I was there 18 long years,” said Vondra Lockett. “My children grew up in that house."

She used to live in a home on Mathis Drive but she was forced out of it and now lives at the Charlotte Express Motel.

“I thank God for shelter, but by the same token, woooh, it’s rough,” she said.

Without a kitchen, she said she shops at a dollar store for food.

In 1994, Lockett was kidnapped, raped, shot and left for dead. She is partially paralyzed and lives off a disability check.

"It was bad enough that I was stripped of my dignity, then,” she said. “It's like I've been raped all over again."

She was paying $750 a month at her old home but rent in that neighborhood is now between $1,100 and $1,300 a month. The property manager cashed in, which meant she had to go.

"If that person is paying their rent, they’re keeping your house up,” Lockett said. “What’s the problem, you know? You are still getting paid.”

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Damany Lewis

Damany Lewis, wsoctv.com

Damany Lewis is an anchor and reporter for Channel 9.

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