Opportunity Task Force Report Recommends Action on Affordable Housing

A long-awaited, 92-page report issued yesterday by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force proposed a wide range of strategies for improving opportunities for upward social and economic mobility — including a number of proposals to increase the supply of affordable housing.

The Task Force was formed in May 2015 in response to a 2013 study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, which focused on the economic mobility of low-income families in major American metropolitan areas. The study found that ‘for children growing up in places like San Jose, California, the odds of moving from the bottom fifth of the national income distribution to the top fifth are 12.9 percent.’

In contrast, in cities like Charlotte, Atlanta and Indianapolis, the report indicated that ‘a child’s odds of moving from the bottom fifth to the top fifth are less than 5 percent—less than the average any developed country for which the data was available. At 4.4 percent, Charlotte was at the very bottom of the 50 cities ranked in the study.’

mobility-map-min

Source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report

The Task Force report identified 21 strategies across three key areas that determine the opportunity of a child to achieve economic mobility. They range from expanding access to quality early care and public Pre-K to promoting marriage and stable, two-parent households. Most of the strategies addressing Affordable Housing are not new, but a handful would require state authorization that is unlikely to be granted — and which REBIC and other industry groups would strongly oppose.

The Affordable Housing policy recommendations are:

  1. Support the City of Charlotte’s goal of creating or preserving a net 5,000 affordable units over the next three years. Concurrently, investigate and implement strategies to set an ambitious goal for a second wave of housing that will substantially reduce the deficit of 34,000 units.
  2. Pursue new and/or dramatically expanded sources of public funding to support affordable housing development.
  3. Engage private, nonprofit, and public developers in new conversations to create innovative strategies to address locational, regulatory and financial barriers to affordable housing.
  4. Encourage and support more place-based initiatives that include affordable housing as part of neighborhood revitalization efforts. (Renaissance West Community Initiative is an example of place-based initiative.)
  5. Ensure mixed income housing—including rental and home ownership opportunities for low-income residents—is always considered when planning new residential or mixed-use development.
  6. Use excess public-owned land for affordable housing when feasible.
  7. Act on other key recommendations outlined in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Strategies for Affordable Housing Development Report (2016.)

The specific tasks identified to achieve these policies are:

  • Increase housing bonds referendum from the current $15M every two years to up to $50M every two years and maintain at these significantly higher levels.
  • Explore the creation of a Housing Opportunity Investment Fund to incentivize new developments.
  • Create strategies to increase use of the four percent Low-Income Tax Credit, TIF, and other incentives.
  • Examine ways to lower barriers and fees associated with the development of affordable housing.
  • Overhaul zoning and permitting processes to include the creation of an affordable housing overlay district, and continue to advocate for changes at the state level, which would enable local communities to use mandatory inclusionary zoning as a tool to create more affordable units.
  • Advocate that elected official make affordable housing development the highest priority for using excess public land when deliberating on properties through the local government’s Mandatory Referral Process.
  • Partner with developers to understand the financial considerations of developing affordable housing and to identify opportunities to address those needs.
  • Institute an initiative to acquire vacant, foreclosed residences with delinquent taxes and re-purpose for affordable housing.
  • Encourage large anchor institutions (i.e. schools, hospitals, and other large employers) to consider assisting with housing affordability for its workforce.
  • Substantially increase access to and funding for rental subsidy vouchers paired with supportive services, including programs such as the A Way Home Endowment.
  • Create and sustain a landlord consortium to encourage landlord participation in all zip codes to house families with public and/or private rental subsidies.
  • Provide more mechanisms for lower-income families to purchase homes and build assets, such as creation of a community land trust and deed restrictions that control the resale price of a home.
  • Develop and launch a new community campaign to change the community mindset about affordable housing and shift to a “Yes, in my backyard” mentality by more people.

REBIC supports many of the policies and tactics identified in the Task Force report, particularly the proposals to substantially increase the amount of the City’s Housing Bond referendum, and to overhaul the zoning and permitting process to create affordable housing overlays. We also strongly support the creation of additional incentive-based tools to encourage the construction of affordable units by the private sector.

We would strongly oppose, however, any effort to modify state law to allow local communities to enact Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning ordinance. We believe that these ordinances have limited long-term benefits, and in fact produce significant imbalances in local housing market values. Rather than spread the cost of expanding affordable housing across all residents of a community, they concentrate those cost burdens on purchasers of new housing, as well as on tenants in a newly constructed apartment community.

You can read the entire report on the Task Force website, www.leadingonopportunity.org

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