Email sent to the NC House and Senate Representatives of Mecklenburg County by Mike O’Sullivan
I am writing on behalf of OneMECK concerning HB 366 that is under review by the NC Senate. This bill currently contains a provision that would take away safeguards for people living in motels, and give landlords the power to eject them at will. We ask that you work to remove this provision, or at least modify it to make it less cruel and unfair.
Specifically, Sec. 10 of House Bill 366 authorizes residential motel operators to re-classify tenants who live in their rooms (and have no other home) as “transient guests” for the first 90 days of their leases. Operators would be empowered to lock out such “guests” at the end of any occupancy period (typically a week) for any reason without warning and take all of the tenants’ food, medicine, clothes, documents, and all other property. The operators could exercise this power without any prior eviction judgment by a court and without any supervision by law enforcement. It invites violent confrontations. And CMS reports that some 1100 of our students reside in motels, imagine the effect on the children!
North Carolina law for the past 220 years has never allowed landlords of residential properties to exercise such unilateral and total power over their tenants. In 1800 the NC Supreme Court decided that landlords could evict their tenants only by judicial ejectment actions. For the following 220 years landlords have been prohibited from taking the law in their own hands and locking out tenants without a court order.
In 1991 the NC Court of Appeals ruled that residents of motels who live there and pay rent are entitled to the same legal status and rights as all other tenants living in houses and apartments. This bill will arbitrarily strip the thousands of motel tenants of those rights regardless of their individual records of payment and good behavior.
Increasingly as rental properties become more and more inaccessible to low-income families, especially if there is a prior eviction filed, hotels and motels are “home” and people have no other residence, often for months or even years though they have steady jobs and a stable income. They are residents who contribute significantly to our economy as they cook and serve our meals, drive package delivery trucks, take care of our neighbor’s children, deliver groceries and meals, serve loved ones in local hospitals and more.
Claims have been made that the federal moratorium on evictions and the Attorney General’s letter to motel landlords “handcuffed“ police from removing people who were destroying property or committing serious crimes. That is simply incorrect. Police can arrest anyone that commits a crime anywhere, but that does not deprive the accused of a right to trial if he or she disputes the charge. The federal moratorium by the CDC expressly exempted evictions for property destruction, criminal activity, and other issues beyond nonpayment. Motel landlords would not be “stuck” with these troublemakers. The Expedited Eviction of Drug Traffickers Act gives all landlords access to expedited eviction trials in the court of their choice and provides for emergency injunctions against criminal activities, which is enforceable by contempt (including jail). No moratorium on evictions has prevented motel landlords from using this legal remedy.
HB 366 is flawed because it fails to target only the few motel occupants who are committing serious crimes and causing property damage. The result of the bill as written would make more families homeless, adding additional burdens to our social services system including our hospitals and jails where many often land both here and across North Carolina.
The current protections for those living in hotels/motels have been in place for 30+ years and serve an important purpose. We urge you not to allow these protections to be stripped away with HB 366.
— Mike O’Sullivan, Chair, OneMECK Affordable Housing Committee
Email sent to City Council by Mike O’Sullivan
I am writing on behalf of OneMECK, an organization that has been advocating for affordable housing in Charlotte Mecklenburg for many years.
This Monday night, you will undertake a critical vote on the Charlotte Future 2040 Plan. This plan is aspirational, and we are asking that you retain key provisions aimed at a more equitable future for our community, even though some of these provisions may be controversial.
One policy most at risk is one that is an essential tool for fighting segregation, rising housing costs, displacement, climate change, and barriers to opportunity. Policy 2.1 in the plan would improve neighborhood diversity and inclusion by ending exclusionary zoning. What does that mean? It’s currently illegal to build houses for two, three, or four families on over 75% of Charlotte’s residential land without an expensive and time-consuming re-zoning.
Some have argued the Policy 2.1 will not affect most affluent neighborhoods because they have HOA covenants that prohibit multi-family homes, while less affluent areas do not have the restrictions of such covenants. But, over the long run, the enforceability of these covenants can be challenged, for example if they have not been consistently enforced. In addition, there is still undeveloped land that is not subject to such covenants. Policy 2.1 is aimed toward the future and will have a gradual but growing impact in the years ahead.
Here are some key benefits of allowing houses for two and three families on lots currently zoned single-family:
- Reduces displacement: Maintaining the status quo of excluding anything but single-family homes in neighborhoods will perpetuate the process of displacement throughout the city. By setting a limit on how many houses can be built, our current zoning regulations artificially drive up prices by limiting the supply of housing.
Policy 2.1 will not result in duplexes and triplexes with affordable units in the most expensive neighborhoods in Charlotte. Land costs there are simply too high. In gentrifying neighborhoods however, lower cost duplex and triplex units would facilitate mixed-income housing on lots that are otherwise destined to end up redeveloped without any housing that is within the reach of existing residents.
- Addresses racial and economic segregation: Building houses for two or three families improves access to opportunities for housing and neighborhood social cohesion. Middle density homes tend to be less expensive to own or rent, have lower rent inflation, and have more diverse tenants.
- Increases overall housing supply: Charlotte’s population is growing dramatically and we need more housing of all sizes and price points. Allowing two or three houses on a lot would increase housing supply to meet the growing demand.
- Improves homeownership opportunities for low and moderate income families: Due to size and efficiency of land use, duplex and triplex homes often have lower purchase prices and are more likely affordable for middle and low income families. Homeownership remains the primary wealth-building investment for many households and is the backbone of the American Dream.
- Reduces environmental and climate impacts: Only allowing single-family homes perpetuates sprawl into our undeveloped green spaces and perpetuates our over-reliance on automobiles and the air and climate pollution they emit.
- Makes financial sense: Allowing more than one home per lot maximizes taxpayer investment in the existing public infrastructure like sewer, water, sidewalks, and roads. Less sprawl into undeveloped areas means shorter commute times and less economic productivity lost to traffic congestion.
To help us move away from the past, with an eye toward the future, we ask you to support the existing language of Policy 2.1 to legalize two, three, and four-family houses across the city.
Thank you for your consideration of this critical issue. Mike O’Sullivan, Chair, OneMECK Affordable Housing Committee
The County has had a policy of using foreclosure to attempt to collect property tax debts that are over 10 years old and are therefore barred from collection by the statute of limitations. However, the statute of limitations is not an automatic bar. A debtor must know that the statute exists and assert it as a defense to the foreclosure in writing. If the debtor does not know to do that, the court deems that defense waived, and the foreclosure may proceed. Hence, the homeowners most vulnerable to the county’s previous practice were lower income consumers who were unaware of their rights and unable to hire counsel.
OneMECK has been working with the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to advocate for a change in the County’s policy. Good news! We have been informed by the County Attorney that they have suspended enforced collections of property tax debts over 10 years old.
Position paper sent to City Council by Rosalyn Allison-Jacobs
- We acknowledge that the City of Charlotte needs a Comprehensive Development Plan to replace the myriad neighborhood plans in existence today. We understand that Session Law 2019-111 may require the city to amend and/or enact certain ordinances before certain dates in the near future that will drive this process. Regardless, we believe it is more important for the city to adopt a quality plan rather than a quick one. We do not support a 6-month or 12-month delay in City Council’s approval of a plan. Much is at stake in determining what kind of city we want to by the year 2040.
- We believe that the city staff has crafted an excellent draft which coordinates most of the essential elements for good development. However, for most of us, a document of 318 pages is difficult to navigate and evaluate. To easily assist an effort to understand the draft, we suggest that the city’s executive summary list recommendations permitted under current state law and recommendations that depend on changes to state law. However, we believe that more safeguards for neighborhoods at risk of displacement are in order. In the interest of ensuring the Equitable Growth Metric of Vulnerability to Displacement (page 29 of the Public Review Draft), we believe that the concept and language relative to Policy Framework Goal 2: Neighborhood Diversity and Inclusion (pages 102-103 of Public Review Draft), need refinement to build in more protections against displacement for vulnerable neighborhoods.
- We believe that equity is the most important value underlying this Comprehensive Development Plan. Accordingly, the purpose in amending the single-family zoning should be to enhance diverse and affordable housing throughout the community. We suggest that any conversion of a single-family structure to a 3-plex or 4-plex structure should require that one of those units be affordable to a family at 50% of AMI or below. If amendment to state law and additional resources from local government are necessary to achieve that goal, the Comprehensive Development Plan should include a description of the means to that end.
- Here is an illustration of how an affordable unit would work in this proposal. The owner of a single-family house decides to replace it with a new 4-plex. Three of the units would be rented at market rates, which might be (depending on location) $1,200/month for a 1-BR, $1,400/month each for 2-BR units, and then a 3-BR unit would have to be priced to be affordable for a family of four who are at 50% of AMI. If we assume that the AMI in 2022 for Charlotte for a family of four will be approximately $80,000 annually, the 50% level would be $40,000 annually. To be affordable to such a family, we would calculate the total shelter cost at 30% of the annual income which would be $12,000, or $1,000 monthly. Subtracting a reasonable allowance for monthly utilities at $200, the affordable rent rate would be approximately $800/month. That amount would be approximately $700 below the market rate. The owner could absorb that sacrifice in budgeting for the overall profit of converting a single-rent building into a four-rent undertaking. Another option would be for the owner to accept a participant in the Housing Choice Voucher program which would enable the owner to receive the full market rate rent of $1,500/month, $800 directly from the resident and $700 directly from the Housing Choice Voucher. In either scenario a family gets an affordable dwelling in a desirable location. The community gets an equitable distribution of affordable units.
- Whereas to date the development of the Public Draft, and outreach for public comment, have been conducted by city staff, we believe that City Council should hold public hearings in each of the seven council districts. These hearings will ensure that residents in all parts of the city have the opportunity to directly provide our elected officials meaningful input to and understanding of the plan. Likewise, these hearings will also provide our City Council members an opportunity to explain what they propose to do in amending and adopting a final version of the Comprehensive Development Plan.
Note to City Council Members from Hannah-Marie Warfle
Thank you for supporting the use of Housing Trust Fund dollars to assist in the preservation of NOAH at Lake Mist Apartments. I hope that more of the HTF money can be used in this way so that my homeless clients will be able to move out of the shelter into an affordable apartment. However, we are going to need a few more affordable units to house all of the homeless and unstably housed individuals in Charlotte. It would help if ALL landlords and property managers would accept all types of income and consider housing applicants using their full applications not just by their response to questions regarding criminal history. Charlotte City Council could make this happen by passing a Fair Housing Ordinance. This action would send a strong message to our community: that Charlotte’s City Council stands with the Poor and Disenfranchised.
I am sure you have heard many reasons why a Fair Housing Ordinance that includes protection for those with criminal records and for those with non-traditional income sources, could be risky, legally. I acknowledge that many will be unhappy with this move and will challenge it in court. But fear of contention and legal battles cannot be the reason for inaction. If the Charlotte City Council really stands behind its most vulnerable constituents, those who most need champions to fight for them, then fear will not stand in the way.
The Pandemic has made action by our leaders more impactful and urgent, and Charlotte City Councilmembers are no exception. Taking action to pass a Fair Housing Ordinance would give hope and opportunity to thousands. Not just to the over 2,7001homeless individuals in our city, but also to the thousands of people living in hotels and the thousands of families cramming into tiny apartments, two and three at a time, just so they can afford the rent. I encourage you, Charlotte City Councilmembers, to be role models, prioritizing the most vulnerable over preserving the status quo and not rocking the boat.
Please, take action on behalf of Charlotteans in need of a fair chance to obtain a safe and decent place to live. Stand up for the Poor and Disenfranchised.