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Mecklenburg County leaders face difficulty finding solutions to corporate-owned housing problem

Mecklenburg County leaders are trying to determine what they can do to help alleviate one part of the affordable housing crisis, but it's proving difficult.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County leaders are trying to brainstorm what they can do to try to limit or put a stop to corporate-owned homes in the county.

On Tuesday, commissioners received an update from county staff on the problem. 

Currently, more than 13,600 single-family homes are owned by corporations with six of them owning a majority of those homes, according to the county.

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Investors have bought an estimated 93.5% of those homes for $300,000 or less, according to county staff. 

It means the supply of homes is getting smaller and smaller, with prices for rent or purchasing a home skyrocketing. 

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Many of the homes bought by investors are in the crescent of the county going from the west to the north to the eastern part of the area. The southern part of the county sees far fewer corporate-owned homes, according to a map shown to county leaders. 

Credit: WCNC

"Frankly, this is disgusting," Commissioner Mark Jerrell said. "This is taking advantage of the most vulnerable in this community, the most marginalized in this community."

County staff shared what some other communities are doing elsewhere to combat the issue, but noted that many communities that are similar to Mecklenburg County's size don't have solutions that are a quick fix.

"We can't build ourselves out of this problem," Commissioner Vilma Leake added. 

County staff noted that in St. John's County, Florida, entire communities that are built for rental must convert to homeownership in five years. 

They also told commissioners that in Shelby County, Tennessee, they encourage homeowner associations to put a cap on rental properties. 

Staff told commissioners those two ideas could be further researched to see if they can happen in Mecklenburg County. 

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Commissioner Laura Meier asked if the county could tax corporations more than individual homeowners. County Attorney Tyrone Wade said that would be illegal due to state law. 

He also reminded county leaders there is little that can be done unless the state makes changes to laws. 

Chair George Dunlap tried to lower expectations, saying the county should follow the law when looking at solutions to try to fix the problem. 

Dunlap and others are now asking staff to bring more detailed plans and solutions to the table before deciding which route they'd like to take.

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.  

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