An organization helps working professionals afford homes in Charlotte

Program helps professionals buy homes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte Housing Partnership has been busy trying to get people into affordable housing. The organization has been around for more than 30 years. The Partnership's mission is to build affordable housing, revitalize and develop neighborhoods.

The Partnership has about 25 developments throughout Charlotte with waiting list of customers trying to get a home. Charlotte Housing Partnership also wants to improve economic mobility through home ownership. The President of The Housing Partnership, Julie Porter, says affording a house in Charlotte can be tough.

“Right now at $15 an hour,” Housing Partnership President Julie Porter said. “Somebody would have to work almost 80 hours a week to afford an average apartment here in Charlotte. It’s gotten kind of crazy in terms of affordability.”

More than 20 years ago the Housing Partnership helped Marrissa Nichols get a home. She was a Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) District teacher and at the time she was pursuing the American Dream of owning a home. She couldn’t do it.

“I was three years into teaching,” Nichols said. “I was making less than $25,000 a year. I had an after-school job, weekend job, summer jobs. I was constantly working and I was saving up all this money and I didn’t have enough to purchase a home.”

Nichols read about the Housing Partnership in the local newspaper and used its services to get a home. She recalls she had a college degree and was a working professional and still couldn’t afford a home.

“It was so discouraging,” she said. “Because as a woman I needed a mate just to make the money to say that I could afford a house.”

The Partnership counseled Nichols. The company showed her some properties. She picked a particular house and The Housing Partnership was able to split her mortgage to allow her to afford the monthly payments.

“I was paying significantly less a month for a mortgage,” Nichols said. “Than I would have for an apartment.”

20 years later The Housing Partnership still helps working professionals afford a home.

“We’ve had CNA’s,” Porter said. “Med-techs, people who take care of the elderly. We’ve had early childhood education teachers. We’ve had bank tellers - we’ve had police officers.”

During the more than 30 years of The Housing Partnership’s existence, it has created more than 4,000 homeowners, made provisions for more than 3,000 renters, and counseled nearly 30,000 families.

“Getting affordable housing - there is absolutely a priority for the housing partnership,” Porter said. “It is a priority for the city of Charlotte. It may take some extraordinary efforts.”

Nichols is concerned more than 20 years ago she couldn’t afford a home in Charlotte on her teacher’s salary. She left the teaching profession so she could pay for her house without struggling.

“It is so disheartening,” Nichols said. "And I really hate it that I had to leave the teaching profession.

“My grandmother was a teacher. My mother taught for 38 years. They struggled, but they had a mate and I was a single person and I couldn’t do that struggle alone.”

Affordable housing was a problem more than 20 years ago and it’s still a problem. Porter says not enough was done to address the affordable housing crisis. She says not enough land was purchased to build affordable housing.

“If you don’t control the land - you don’t control what happens,” Porter said. “And so what we have in Charlotte is such an incredible demand and such price acceleration for the land that we can’t build affordable housing - it’s becoming much more challenging.”

Porter thinks now is the time for politicians to start thinking outside the box.

“You have to look at empty strip malls,” Porter said. “And say maybe I need to purchase that even-though it cost quite a bit of money and start thinking about building affordable housing there.”

While politicians tackle affordable housing, Nichols is concerned teachers are still unable to buy a home in Charlotte where they work.

“It saddens me to know that 20 years later,” Nichols said. “That something as basic as affordable housing is still a struggle.”

The former CMS teacher now owns her home and hopes as time goes on the affordable housing crisis will end.

“One thing I expect my elected officials to do is,” Nichols said. “To anticipate the future.”

If you want more information about The Housing Partnership click here.

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