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New Housing Policy Likely To Spark Controversy

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M~ SUN0110B construction 9.jpgCharlotte’s contentious rules on where to locate so-called affordable housing would see subtle but significant changes under a new policy that the city council’s Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) committee unanimously approved Tuesday afternoon.

The proposed policy would scuttle existing criteria that define areas where the location of subsidized, multi-family housing developments is prohibited, permitted, or strongly encouraged. Location, instead, would be aligned with data from the city’s Quality of Life study, which was last updated in 2008 and considers myriad social and economic factors in determining the livability of different Neighborhood Statistical Areas (NSAs).

New subsidized multi-family developments would be permitted in any NSA ranked as “stable,” including some areas where similar development is not allowed under existing policy, and prohibited in any NSA ranked as either “transitioning” or “challenged.”

Rehabilitation of existing market-rate, multi-family developments turned subsidized units would be permitted in all areas of the city; the same as is allowed under existing policy. But under the new rules, any rehabbed developments would be required to have on-site management offices that provide staffing levels and support services according to the size of the development.

The revised policy would still restrict new subsidized multi-family developments from locating within a half mile of any existing subsidized development with more than 24 units, unless council approved a waiver for the proposed project.

The draft policy approved by the HAND committee is slated for review by the full city council next week and then heads to a round of what many committee members forecast to be heated public forums.

“I think we might have to break out the bullet-proof vests on some of these,” said committee Chairman James Mitchell.

That includes one area Mitchell pointed to in his district as an example, Hyde Park, where new subsidized multi-family developments would be permitted under the revised policy, but prohibited under the existing.

“It has some very nice homes, $300,000-plus, so, yes, I expect we’re going to get resistance in those types of situations,” Mitchell said. “But this is something we need to deal with. We’ve been putting if off for too long.”

Pockets of similar potential hot spots dot the city’s Quality of Life/NSA map, particularly in what are still mostly suburban areas.

“It pretty much opens up all of south Charlotte (for new subsidized housing),” said Councilmember Warren Cooksey, a Republican whose district includes large swaths of south Charlotte suburbia.

Conversely, areas where new subsidized, multi-family development would be allowed under existing policy; would be prohibited under the revised one with its NSA benchmarks.

The goal, advocates say, is to have a policy that is more effective at locating subsidized housing developments throughout the whole city, instead of having them clustered in only a few areas.

“I don’t doubt that there’s going to be push-back all across the city,” said Pat Mumford, director of the city’s Neighborhood and Business Services division that helped the council’s HAND committee craft its new policy.

“But debating every project on 50 different variables is not a good way to do business,” Mumford said, referring to the existing policy and its use of different criteria to determine areas where new subsidized housing developments are permitted, encouraged or prohibited.

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