OneMECK Comments on City of Charlotte’s 2040 Comprehensive Development Plan

Position paper sent to City Council by Rosalyn Allison-Jacobs

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.