CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Commissioners unanimously approved a plan Tuesday that will keep some east Charlotte apartments affordable as rent prices continue to climb.
County officials said there are plans to renovate the Peppertree Apartments off Central Avenue and to make the rent more affordable for residents. This is good news for those struggling to keep up with Charlotte's skyrocketing rent, which has led to a lack of units for low-income residents.
Commissioners say these renovations are desperately needed as there is an intense demand and diminishing supply of affordable housing across the city.
“We are lacking affordable housing," Laura Meier, County Commissioner for District 5, said. “Companies are coming in buying up these properties and it’s just leaving everybody helpless.”
Now, there is an opportunity to create more cost-effective inventory. The plan approved by county commissioners Tuesday will invest more than $7 million in the Peppertree Apartments while keeping rent affordable.
The money will help with rental assistance for very low-income residents.
“We have to house our people," Meier said. "We're not doing a good job of it."
Just last week, Charlotte City Council approved $8 million in funding to renovate the apartments.
“We're making some sort of headway," Meier said.
According to the presentation shared with county commissioners Tuesday night, the current rent at Peppertree Apartments ranges from $937 to $1,234. The proposed rental rates would be between $390 and $465 for renters that meet the income requirements.
According to Ascent Housing, the company plans to offer 88 units with rents between $390 and $465 per month to serve families that annually earn at or below 30% of the Charlotte area's median income (AMI), which is $28,250 or less for a family of four.
Additionally, 146 units will have rent prices between $845 and $1,152 per month for families that annually earn between 31% and 60% AMI. For a family of four, that's between $29,202 and $56,520 per year.
And lastly, 58 units will go for $845 to $1,295 per month for families that annually earn between 61% and 80% AMI. For a family of four, that's between $57,462 and $75,350 per year.
The acquisition of Peppertree is part of Ascent's larger initiative called The Housing Impact Fund, which it helped launch in 2020.
"We’re buying these properties, renovating them, and then setting the rents for new households that move in after we buy it to rents they can afford,” partner Mark Ethridge explained.
The Housing Impact Fund is fueled by public and private investments. Ethridge said it aims to acquire 1,000 units of naturally occurring affordable housing in the Charlotte area. Once Ascent Housing closes on Peppertree, the fund will own a little over 800 affordable units.
Ethridge added that the low-priced units wouldn't be possible without the city and county's investments.
"Any way we can use new sources of revenue to fund rental subsidies and bring those rents down to $300 to $400 a month, is something that really makes the largest impact in our affordable housing crisis,” Ethridge said.
People currently living in the Plaza Midwood apartment community are excited about the plan.
“I feel like that’s a great opportunity for Central," Peppertree tenant Shaquana Davis said.
While rent at Peppertree is already below the average asking rate in Charlotte, Davis said she's hopeful the project would prevent her rent from going up.
“I’m hopeful for what’s next,” Davis said, telling WCNC Charlotte she's eager to see the next steps and if she qualifies.
Ascent expects to close on the deal this fall and will begin setting up the leasing program and renovations immediately after. In total, it will cost more than $55 million.
Interested renters will be able to apply for affordable units through The Housing Collaborative, according to Ethridge. Existing tenants will not be displaced and may qualify for lower rent.
WCNC Charlotte is part of seven major media companies and other local institutions producing I Can’t Afford to Live Here, a collaborative reporting project focused on solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.