Roof Above buys east Charlotte apartment complex to preserve affordable housing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With affordable housing disappearing across the country, a local nonprofit has purchased an east Charlotte apartment complex to ensure families earning below the city’s median income have a place they can afford to live.

Roof Above, a nonprofit that provides services for people experiencing homelessness, announced Tuesday that it purchased HillRock Estates on 23 acres near Kilborne Drive.

Through deed restrictions, the organization said it will ensure all 341 apartments in the complex remain affordable for at least 27 years for households earning below the city’s median income.

Officials said the $50 million deal was made possible through a public-private partnership.

According to Roof Above, they got a philanthropic gift of $5 million -- the largest single private gift ever received by the organization -- and a gift of $2 million, both donated anonymously from two Charlotte families. Atrium Health provided a $5 million low-interest loan in exchange for the use of 50 apartments over time to house Atrium workers in need of assistance. The organization said financing was also provided by Bellweather Enterprise through a $31.6 Fannie Mae loan, the city of Charlotte’s voter-approved Housing Trust Fund, an innovation grant of $600,000 from Local Initiatives Support Corporation and additional philanthropic donations totaling $1 million rounded out the funding for the project.

“We are so grateful for our corporate, philanthropic and government partners in this innovative solution that will provide housing for so many individuals and families,’’ Roof Above CEO Liz ClasenKelly said. “HillRock Estates embodies the kind of bold thinking we had in mind last year when we merged Urban Ministry Center and Men’s Shelter of Charlotte to form a single, more impactful organization.”

Atrium Health President and CEO Eugene A. Woods said his organization’s investment in HillRock reflects Atrium Health’s ongoing commitment to ensuring affordable housing options in the Queen City and is part of the healthcare system’s broader efforts to close existing equity gaps in the community.

“At Atrium Health, we know that one of the key determinants of a person’s health is a safe and affordable place to live,” said Woods. “Having a strong and reliable home base gives people the foundation to lead healthier and happier lives. Investing in affordable housing for the communities we are privileged to serve – including essential workers within our Atrium Health family – is an important and meaningful part of fulfilling our mission to provide health, hope and healing – for all.”

According to Roof Above, Charlotte faces a deficit of at least 34,000 affordable housing units, primarily for families making 60% or less of the city’s median income. Rental housing prices are climbing along with the city’s growth, and properties that were once affordable for low-income families have been replaced with new more upscale homes financially out of reach for many families.

Roof Above’s project preserves what is known as Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing, which comprises unsubsidized rental properties that are typically Class B and Class C apartment buildings with 50 units or more, built between 1940 and 1990. Officials said such housing stock is vanishing across the country due to redevelopment, and communities are struggling to find creative ways to protect these affordable properties for essential and service workers, public servants and people with disabilities.

Roof Above teamed up with Ascent Real Estate Capital, a leader in NOAH preservation in Charlotte, to execute the acquisition, financing and affordability plan for the project. Ascent will serve as operating partner and asset manager of the property in partnership with Roof Above.

The organization said it stepped in to buy HillRock Estates just as the re-development trend moved into the community and began to drive up rental prices. Rent restrictions will be phased in as turnover occurs, with apartments made affordable to households making 80% of the city’s median income and less. At least 75 of the 341 units will be designated for individuals who have had long-term experiences of homelessness, and Mecklenburg County will provide funding for on-site services to support those tenants in retaining their housing.

“The beauty of HillRock is that it’s funded primarily through private sources and will operate much like any apartment community does,” Clasen-Kelly said, “yet at the same time will accommodate households with a range of incomes including some of Charlotte’s most vulnerable residents.”

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