Residents fight to keep affordable housing options in Cornelius

CORNELIUS, N.C. — A historic Cornelius neighborhood is seeking county funding to build new affordable housing units and to preserve existing properties.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a group of 20 neighbors installed the community's first street lights and dug the trenches for water lines.

Ron Potts' father was one of them.

"My dad fought for this all of his life, I just can't let it die," Potts said. There is "a lot of history here and we're proud of it."

Potts still lives in Smithville and is one of a few asking Mecklenburg County for help.

Potts and a group of neighbors took a bus to Mecklenburg County's budget public hearing Thursday night.

The neighborhood is hoping for a $3 million investment to build new affordable housing on the neighborhood's vacant land and to preserve existing properties.

"We would like to maintain our story," he said.

Affordable housing has long been thought of as a city issue but county leaders have expressed a desire to make a significant investment.

The current proposed budget sets aside $22.5 million for affordable housing. County leaders have included $250,000 in the budget to create a revitalization plan for the Smithville neighborhood.

Potts says the neighborhood is starting to gentrify and developers frequently send mail to neighbors asking them to sell their homes. He says any assistance is appreciated.

"There's been a lot of blood and sweat into maintaining this community and I would hate to see it all go away," he said.

County leaders plan to finalize their budget by June 4.

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