CHARLOTTE, NC (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer) - Developers are planning to build hundreds of new townhouses across Charlotte as they seek to put more homes on land that's increasingly in short supply.
Rezoning petitions filed recently show 300 townhouses in the works on sites near Independence Boulevard, in Seversville and southwest Charlotte.
That's on top of plans filed in previous months for 222 townhouses, and a plan Charlotte City Council approved this month for 200 townhouses across from Ardrey Kell High School.
"A lot of it has to do with the economics of the deals," said Collin Brown, a land use attorney representing two developers seeking approval for new townhouse developments. As land has gotten more expensive, there's incentive for developers to put as many houses on a given site as they can, to maximize their return.
And there are fewer lots to build on in Charlotte, even as the housing market boom continues.
The supply of lots in Mecklenburg County is down 1.2 percent over the past year, according to data from tracking service Metrostudy, even as new construction starts are up 8.5 percent.
Rezoning land from single-family building to townhouses can significantly increase the number of residences on a site. For example, on one of the sites, off Billy Graham Parkway, the developers want to go from three houses allowed per acre to about 8.5 townhouses per acre.
That means the number of residences on the 9.8-acre site could jump from about 29 allowed under the current zoning to 85 under the proposed zoning.
Similarly, another site could see the number of residences increase from 37 single-family houses under the current zoning to 165 townhouses under the proposed plan.
While some neighbors might fear the increased density, Brown, who works for the developers, said it's a better use of space in a city with limited land available for building.
"Single-family homes are great, but they're sprawling, and this is a more efficient use of our land," said Brown.
He also said that the increased density will allow builders to offer lower prices, perhaps starting around $250,000, and that the townhouses will appeal to young buyers looking for their first place who have been locked out of the market so far.
In the face of plunging supply, prices have been going up rapidly in Charlotte.
The median price of a home sold in the Charlotte region jumped 7.2 percent in March, reaching $235,000, according to data released by the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association. The average sale price, a measure that puts more emphasis on higher-priced properties, rose 4.6 percent, to $326,754.
Here's a look at the three proposed developments. City Council will hold hearings and vote on them in the coming months: