Some don't want affordable housing near them

CHARLOTTE — Nestled behind the Whole Foods and high-end shops at Phillips Place in SouthPark is the Springcroft at Ashley Park apartments. You'd never guess by looking. The building is affordable housing for people over age 55 that was built by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership.

"I lived previously in an area where it was a not so nice," said Antionette Anderson.

Anderson was on a wait list for two and a half years just to get into Springcroft with its modest 690 square feet one-bedroom units. The US Airways retiree is happy to be here.

"Affordable housing for 55 plus is not every easy to come by," she said.

The building cost $8 million. Charleston Architecture designed it to blend in. Residents of the 50 units here have an average income of less than $14,000 a year. Their average rent is $471 a month.

About 10 miles away on an empty 7-acre lot on Weddington Road in southeast Charlotte, the housing partnership wants to build something similar: 70 units of affordable housing, with 2 and 3 bedrooms, for families making 60 percent of the area median income of $94,000. They would rent for $804 and $923.

Homes in the area sell for 3 to $400,000. When the rezoning for the project happened five years ago, hundreds of neighbors gathered at a local tennis court in opposition. They argued it would create traffic, noise, and privacy issues. Two neighborhoods nearby - Willowmere and Nottingham Estates - hired attorney Ken Davies to fight the project in court.

He gave Channel 9 a blunt statement about another reason they're against it.

"Concerned about images of affordable housing having more crime. That this would bring to the area a different kind of crowd that would not fit in well," he said.

For five years now, the project has been tied up in the court system. But, Karen Torrey who is raising her family nearby isn't as concerned by it.

"They are hard-working people to who want to live in a better community and maybe go to a better school than they are in now, striving for something, I don't think there is anything wrong with that," she offered.

There's no doubt units like the one planned for Weddington Road are needed. Back in SouthPark, America Mendez loves her Springcroft apartment. She was on the wait list for 6 years and moved in just three months ago.  Based on her income, she pays just $277 a month.

She said she could not live in SouthPark without Springcroft.

"No, not as a senior. My income is fixed on Social Security and the little part time job that I do," she explained.

And there are so many families - even those working full time - who are in the same boat.

Davies said the next hearing for the challenge to the Weddington Road project hasn't been announced, but should be within the next 60 days. Because there is pending litigation, the housing partnership isn't talking about it.