Charlotte gets a boost from private sector to tackle affordable housing

New help to fund affordable housing in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Foundation for the Carolinas is counting how much money it has received so far from the private sector to go toward affordable housing.

On Tuesday, Atrium Health and Fifth Third Bank announced they will donate $10 million each to the Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund. This brings the total to $44 million raised so far from the private sector. The goal is to raise $50 million.

Former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl believes that goal will be accomplished by the end of June.

“We need people who come to the party with a big heart,” McColl said.

McColl is happy Atrium and Fifth Third Bank are donating money. The announcement was made at the Foundation For the Carolinas in front of city, county, and local leaders. Right now Charlotte has a void of about 20,000 affordable housing units.

“The big challenge is finding developers who want to do this, who want to be players in the affordable housing market and who are willing to make sacrifice,” McColl said.

So far, Fifth Third Bank has made about a $1 billion investment in North Carolina when it comes to affordable housing. The bank says making the donation fits their mission.

“It’s a way of showing a commitment,” Fifth Third Bank Regional President Lee Fite said, “and hopefully inspiring others in the community to give both corporately and individually.”

Atrium Health believes this donation will make a difference for many who have struggled to find affordable housing in Charlotte. Atrium’s President and CEO Eugene A. Woods says there is a tale of two cities in Charlotte - and more needs to be done to address the city’s 50 out of 50 ranking concerning upward mobility.

“Recent studies indicate up to 30 percent of Charlotte households are cost-burdened,” Woods said. “And this $10 million commitment will help ensure families, including those of existing Atrium Health employees, will have access to affordable housing and coordinated health services, fresh foods and transportation.”

McColl thinks money raised so far from the private sector could build about 5,000 additional units. He wants to get creative so the donations can be stretched.

"This money can go further if we use it in rehabilitation of existing property," McColl said. "As opposed to building greenfield, so we are going to do all of that. It's going to take all of that to really make a real dent."

Also helping out are the Brook's Brothers from Brooks' Brothers Sandwich Shop. They have decided to donate three acres of land that has been in their family for years. The land will be used so Habitat for Humanity can build up to 28 affordable housing units. David Brooks is concerned much development is going up and not enough affordable housing. The expensive development is the reason his family is giving away the land to help some have a better life.

“It just breaks my heart to see these people - not only customers of mine, but friends of mine have to move on because of something like that - because they cannot afford to stay in the home they were born in,” Brooks said.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles was pleased at the financial announcement. She says every bit helps. Lyles believes it will take foresight and generosity to solve the affordable housing crisis.

People have been waiting for affordable housing and they are getting weary.

“Construction takes a while,” Lyles said. “That’s why we are focusing on preventing evictions and actually subsidizing rent - so that we can give people something immediate. We need to build for the long term but some of the things we need to do right now are keeping people in their existing housing that are affordable.”

The mayor says she is working with city council to come up with a plan that will offer neighbors quicker relief when it comes to affordable housing. Some in the community are excited about the money coming but are concerned about the execution of building affordable housing.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) will work with Charlotte’s trust fund when it comes to developing affordable units.

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