2022: Tackling The Housing Crisis
This week, we celebrate Moore Place’s 10-year anniversary. It is a joyful milestone for tenants like Tabby, who have lived there since the beginning and experienced a profound transformation.
Moore Place was the first of its kind in Charlotte: a Housing-First apartment community focused on ending homelessness for the most vulnerable. Ten years ago, Moore Place was considered a radical response and turning point to address the root cause of homelessness: a lack of access to housing.
Today, we are again at a turning point for affordable housing solutions. The last two years have provided important perspective:
- We saw over the pandemic that good policy can make a real impact in people’s lives. Our country quickly enacted measures to prevent homelessness— like stopping evictions and significantly increasing rental assistance.
- These policies worked: our community avoided a potential spike in homelessness.
- But recent data show homelessness numbers rising once again, and we know emergency policies did not address the longstanding gaps made most visible by the pandemic.
As we start out the new year, we wanted to share with our Roof Above community a summary of the most critical challenges and opportunities impacting housing stability in our community.
If you would be interested in adding you voice to our advocacy efforts, let us know by signing up for our advocacy opportunities here.
In Charlotte, as with the nation, it has been the private marketplace, not the government, that has been the primary provider of affordable housing. Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing, or NOAH, are generally older apartment communities and homes, and they provide safe and affordable housing for low-income households across Charlotte.
Opportunity: Now is a critical moment to do all we can to preserve NOAH:
Roof Above purchased a NOAH in 2020 (HillRock Estates) to both preserve NOAH and transition 75 units to serve individuals who had experienced chronic homelessness.
In 2021, the Housing Impact Fund launched, which raised $58 million private capital to preserve more than 1,000 units of NOAH in its first two years.
Both these efforts had financial support from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. We must continue to funnel private and public investments to preserve NOAH, so Charlotte does not lose its largest source of affordable housing.
A concerning trend has emerged. Eviction rates are usually at their lowest during the winter, but levels have remained consistent since the fall. We are keeping a close eye on what we see as trends in 2022.
Opportunity: RAMP CLT has distributed more than $94 million in rental assistance to 18,460 households since the start of the pandemic. With only $11 million left to distribute, they have closed applications until they receive more funding from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
- As these programs end, this community risks returning to a “normal” where more than 18,000 households are evicted each year.
- In the midst of the pandemic, we have seen creative solutions at each step of the eviction process to ensure tenants and landlords have the legal and financial resources to prevent the costly and traumatic experience of homelessness. If you would like to learn more about one city’s example, read here about Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program.
You may have heard the phrase, “We can’t build our way out of the affordable housing crisis.” Building new affordable housing projects can take years to develop while rising rents burden households each month. We must use existing apartments for affordable housing solutions.
- Scattered-site housing programs are common, pairing public or private rental subsidy with existing apartments and case management support to create supportive housing solutions.
- Roof Above currently provides nearly 400 housing solutions through our scattered-site program.
- As the housing shortage worsens, finding landlords willing to accept rental subsidies becomes more challenging, with fewer housing and neighborhood options for someone fortunate enough to receive a voucher. It means housing placement takes longer, lengthening the time someone may experience homelessness.
Opportunity: There are a few different approaches to solving issues of low acceptance of vouchers.
- One policy solution is banning what is known as “Source of Income Discrimination,” which would require all landlords to recognize rental vouchers the same as other forms of income. In Charlotte, a recent sub-committee is looking at how to increase voucher acceptance and will have policy recommendations rolling out in the next few weeks (learn more here).
- Through private investment, the Lotus Campaign offers landlords a financial incentive to accept rental vouchers. Roof Above is a partner and you can learn more here.
- In another inspiring response, a group of philanthropic-minded investors have partnered with a local foundation to purchase properties for the purpose of supporting those on a pathway out of homelessness.
If you happen to be a landlord yourself or interested in becoming one, Roof Above and our partner agencies in this community would love to partner with you to end homelessness, one life at a time.
Nationwide, the pandemic highlighted the unstable situation of staying long-term in hotels and motels because of unaffordable housing. Households in motels and hotels were often not eligible for rental assistance and unprotected by eviction moratoriums.
But, the pandemic also highlighted a unique opportunity… what if these motels and hotels could become stable and affordable apartments?
- This spring, Roof Above will open SECU The Rise on Clanton, a converted hotel that will provide 88 apartments of permanent supportive housing for people who have been chronically homeless.
- Early in the pandemic, we also re-purposed the former King’s College dorms to offer a transitional shelter for 157 men over 13 months, with a 70% success rate for moving into housing.
With the challenges our community is facing, we must look to see what already exists around us as creative solutions to our affordable housing crisis. We can transform unstable housing or unused space into a firm foundation for affordable housing.
Opportunity: With the significant one-time funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, our community has a unique opportunity to advocate to the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to use these one-time funds to purchase hotels and other spaces to create more affordable housing.
Mother Teresa diagnosed at the core of our issues that “we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Indeed, the best progress made during the pandemic was when we acted as a system, recognizing our impact on each other. Similarly, system-thinking will be critical for our progress on affordable housing.
Two big-picture plans are before our community his year:
- The City will consider the “Unified Development Ordinance” or UDO, which for years to come will set the rulebook for development in our community. While the UDO by itself will not solve affordable housing, there are opportunities within the UDO to move us towards more solutions.
- A Home For All strategic framework, formerly referred to as the 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy, was released last week, providing a unified vision to address homelessness and the affordable housing crisis that feeds it. Grassroots organizations, homelessness services providers, housing developers and landlords, faith-based organizations, educational institutions, private companies, the city, and the county all collaborated on the plan.
- Roof Above has been an active participant in the strategy. The implementation plan that will follow will be critical as we work to prioritize and implement the community’s vision.
Opportunity: For both of these plans, organizers have created multiple opportunities for community feedback. If you are interested in learning more about A Home For All and updates, we encourage you to sign up for the Building Bridges Blog at www.mecklenburghousingdata.org. Roof Above is studying the UDO and anticipates we will have some specific feedback for how the plan can encourage more housing innovations for those we serve.
As 2022 unfolds, there will be opportunities to advocate for policies and solutions that will support our neighbors experiencing homelessness. If you would like to learn more about these issues and get involved, let us know by signing up for our advocacy opportunities here. We will let you know throughout the year when opportunities arise to reach out to elected officials about issues that impact homelessness and those experiencing it.