CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The search to find affordable housing in Charlotte is a struggle so many can attest to. Did you know 46 percent of the city’s workforce cannot afford appropriate housing for their families?
Trava Chapman is part of that startling number. She said, “you know they're going up on the rent so high, it's like basically putting you in a cardboard box. You know, what are you supposed to do?"
It's why she's lived at the Seneca Woods apartment complex for four years, one of more than 40 properties owned by the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA).
"Yeah, I can jump out there and get a $1,200 dollar a month but I’m not going to be able to pay any bills.”
Without Seneca Woods, Chapman said she would have been priced out of living along the popular Park Road corridor of South Charlotte. “I would totally not be able to live over here, outside this community here,” she said. “Because the rent is through the roof. Right across there’s a two bedroom and they want $1,900 a month. Who’s doing that?”
Her story – like so many others - is indicative of the city's affordable housing crisis.
It’s estimated that an additional 24,000 to 36,000 units of affordable housing are needed in the Queen City.
But with the steady decline in federal funding over the years, Cheron Porter, VP of Public Relations for CHA told WBTV they needed a flexible option to meet an ever-growing need.
“If HUD funding was declining and they’re weren’t producing anymore units, where were we going to be in 10 years,” she wondered.
That’s where the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) comes in. It's allowing CHA to ensure long-term affordability of its housing while at the same time creating a pipeline to reinvest and redevelop its properties.
“So this sort of provided us an opportunity to make sure that we had good operating going on,” said Porter. “Good maintenance going on and the redevelopment - and development - of new affordable units.”
Porter says they’re thrilled with the $50 million bond affordable housing bond referendum that voters approved on Election Day.
“In many ways, it was an answer to our prayers that we continue to pray every day,” she said. “The demand is more than most can imagine…we love that the city has put its money where its mouth is to address the issues of people in this city. And affordable housing - we already know - it’s a crisis.”
But Floyd Davis, President and CEO of Community Link, an organization that’s been working to provide affordable housing solutions in Charlotte for 90 years says it will take more than those bonds to solve the crisis.
“We need to look at creative solutions,” he said. “It's not a problem of this segment of the community or that segment of the community-- it's a problem for all of us.”
It’s why he’s passionate in his belief that businesses – particularly those who employ workers at the service level sector – must be an actively involved.
“I encourage them to have conversations with their employees and ask them what are they're issues they're facing so they can see how it's impacting them and their workforce,” he said. “And then come forth and speak up at city council when zoning items are on the agenda for the development of affordable housing. All we hear - the chamber is filled with people who are opposed to it. But not understanding that if we don't, if those businesses don't have employees in their community to serve them, those businesses can't function.”
Inspection reports WBTV obtained from CHA on three of its properties underscore the need for RAD: Seneca Woods, Hampton Creste off Wendover Road and Dillehay Courts near Uptown.
In the past 30 days alone, more than 100 maintenance work orders have been submitted at these three complexes.
Porter says they work hard to fix any problems but acknowledges they have their challenges.
“If there's any infractions we're there to fix it,” she said. “Now granted, I'm not saying we're perfect. There's always opportunities for us to grow. And we're doing our best every day.”
They’ve earmarked more than $2 million for improvements at Hampton Creste and Seneca Woods.
And, CHA plans to completely redevelop Dillehay Courts in the coming years the same way it did for Tall Oaks in the Cherry community - now known as the Oaks at Cherry.
In the meantime, Porter says they won't stop working to find affordable options for everyone who needs it.
“People have assumptions about who lives in affordable housing,” she said. “They don't realize it's working people who needs affordable housing. That person, that man, that woman, that senior, that veteran, that disabled person who is unable to work - they all deserve a quality place to live.”
Davis echoes that sentiment and pointed out, “We're not talking about bringing concentrations of blight and problems to communities. No - we're talking about making it possible for working people to have a place to call home.”
And that’s something Chapman says she’s glad to hear.
“Just care a little bit more about people that have low-income,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re bad people. It’s just, you know, they don’t have it.”