To Mayor Lyles and City Council Members:
On August 22, 2022 City Council is scheduled to vote on adoption of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The UDO is the product of years of work by City Council supported by planning staff. We urge current City Council members to complete the work on the UDO and vote for adoption. The new UDO, combined with policies under development by the Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Commission and Charlotte Equitable Development Commission will guide our community toward forward thinking, equitable development for current and future generations.
The current zoning laws are comprised of multiple ordinances dating back many years. While adjustments and additional ordinances have been adopted over the years, these tactical changes do not adequately address future development and do not promote equitable, sustainable growth. With the UDO, our community will realize social and economic benefits from an integrated plan for development, and growth targeted for a better future.
The UDO is a smart, unified approach for future development that considers the needs of all Charlotteans. A few of the key benefits:
- More comprehensible regulations. The UDO combines regulations and standards from eight (8) different development ordinances into a single comprehensive document, making the development process more efficient, while addressing the need for more sustainable and equitable housing for families.
- More accessible, affordable housing options. Demand for housing has increased redevelopment across Charlotte neighborhoods, often displacing families through gentrification, for example. By adding duplex/triplex/quadruplex housing, families will have access to more affordable options, mitigating housing price increases often associated with redevelopment. The UDO also ensures neighborhood preservation through Historic District and Neighborhood Character Overlays.
- More green spaces, less congested traffic patterns. The UDO is specifically designed to create more accessible and walkable neighborhoods, reducing the need for driving and, in some cases, purchasing a car. It also seeks to integrate development and transportation planning, serving high density areas with thoughtful mass transit services. The cost burden to put a “car centric” infrastructure in place impacts everyone. And retrofitting green space amenities after the fact is also expensive.
The need for the UDO is clear. The current Zoning laws are outdated and woefully inadequate given the rate of growth in Charlotte. The new UDO is based on a strategic growth mapping that will sustain Charlotte’s neighborhoods and promote equitable prosperity for families far into the future.
We ask for your vote in support of the UDO on August 22. Thank you for your service to our community.
Justin Perry, Founder, OneMECK
Mike O’Sullivan, Chair, OneMECK Affordable Housing Committee
Unanimously approved at OneMECK meeting 3/10/2022
Who we are:
OneMECK Coalition is an alliance of Mecklenburg County organizations and individuals that advocates for equitable access to economic opportunity and housing in all parts of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
What is the real problem we are trying to solve?
- Inequitable access to housing arising from socio-economic and racial inequity and discrimination, both caused and exacerbated by institutional and systemic barriers including public and private sector policies and practices.
Our Theory of Change:
- In order to increase economic mobility and to increase economic and racial residential diversity that optimizes opportunity in education, work, and life, the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County must address the institutional systems and structures that create barriers to equitable housing while increasing the inventory of geographically dispersed affordable housing. This includes addressing, through action, the enduring impact of our community’s legacies of:
- Public and private policies and practices that support inequity
- Institutional, systemic, and structural racism
- Economic classism, racial bias, and the continuing exclusion of historically marginalized groups
- Power structures that disenfranchise people
- Lack of political will to make and to sustain institutional, legal, political, systemic and structural changes
- Multi-pronged, cross-sector changes to institutions, systems, policies, and practices supporting structural inequity will be required to create neighborhoods and schools that are sustainably economically diverse, and thus racially diverse. This includes forging partnerships with public sector entities (such as elected officials and policy makers), the nonprofit sector (for living wage workforce development and affordable housing development) and private sector organizations and individuals (such as employers and developers).
To accomplish this, OneMECK will be strategic in inviting new coalition members (individuals and organizations), in joining initiatives, and in taking actions that are focused on making changes to institutions, systems, policies, and practices that impact the creation and preservation of equitable access to quality housing across Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
To Mayor Lyles and Members of the Charlotte City Council – we are writing on behalf of OneMECK (https://www.onemeck.org) in support of the CMS/Woodfield Development rezoning petition scheduled for a vote during the 2/21/2022 City Council meeting.
We support this project because it adds urgently needed public school capacity in the Ballantyne area. Funds from the associated apartment development will help CMS, and will bring additional housing capacity into the growing community of Ballantyne. The 15% allocation for “affordable housing” is targeted toward those earning <80% of the AMI. While OneMECK would argue for an increased number of affordable units and a lower AMI target, the 15% will help with economic diversity of the project and is being provided without tapping scarce public resources. Affordable housing at this rent level could potentially help people who work at the school, and people of color, live right next to the new schools.
We at OneMECK support the project as currently defined. We would be strongly against any reduction in the number of affordable units or increase of the AMI target.
Timing is crucial. If CMS delays, the high school gets pushed back another year. They cannot open new schools at random times of the year. If they miss the window to get construction done by August, an entire school year will be lost.
During the last CMS student assignment process, the plan called on all 3 bodies of government (CMS, City, and County) to collaborate to address school segregation. With CMS and the County engagement on land and park and recreation already, the City has the opportunity to approve this plan and demonstrate the type of collaboration this community needs more of.
Justin Perry, Founder, OneMECK
Mike O’Sullivan, Chair, OneMECK Affordable Housing Committee
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