Incentives for developers get approval


by STEVE HARRISON / The Charlotte Observer

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 1:17 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As part of its plan to disperse affordable housing, the Charlotte City Council voted unanimously Monday night to give developers a “density bonus” if they build workforce housing in affluent parts of the city.

The density bonus would let developers build more units than current zoning allows – if they set aside some housing for lower income residents. The idea is that by allowing developers to build more market-rate units, it will give them extra profit to cover the cost of the affordable housing.

Much of the city’s affordable housing is now clustered in a crescent that is west, north and east of uptown. The city wants to disperse low-income units, and has reserved the bonus for parts of the city where the median home value is $153,000 or more. That includes south and southwest Charlotte and a few neighborhoods in the northeast and northwest.

Council members passed the zoning change with no discussion.

The program won’t target the city’s poorest residents. It is instead for people making 80 percent of the area’s median income, which is about $54,000. For renters, the new units would be reserved for those earning 60 percent of median income.

It’s unclear how much of an impact the density bonus will have.

In October, Atlanta-based Noell Consultant Group told the city that Charlotte’s greatest need is to find housing for its poorest residents. The consultant said the city has a shortfall of more than 15,000 units for those earning less than 30 percent of the area median income. The consultant said the city had a small surplus of housing units – roughly 10,000 – for people earning more than 60 percent of area median income.

The density bonus could be used in areas with residential zoning that allows three, four, five or six housing units per acre.

The city has said an example would be a 10-acre site in which a developer would be allowed under current zoning to build a total of 30 housing units, or three per acre. The bonus would allow for a developer to build 10 additional units, with five set aside for workforce housing. The other five additional units could be for anyone and sold at any price.

The requirements on affordability would end after 15 years.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has said dispersing low-income housing is a top priority. He has resisted trying to implement “mandatory inclusionary zoning” – in which developers must set aside affordable housing in all projects they build. He hopes that incentives will do the same thing.