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'I came to buy the American dream' | Charlotte City Council hears from the community on Unified Development Ordinance

The vote for the proposal will come on Aug. 22.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Editor's Note: WCNC apologizes for the misinterpretation of the UDO. We used the word skyscraper, which is not accurate.

Charlotte City Council members heard from the public Monday for the last time before voting on the city's Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which is focused on new zoning laws for the city. 

People gathered outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center ahead of Monday's city council meeting, criticizing the plan.

Community members and some councilmembers said the adoption of the plan would wipe out lower-income communities with cheaper land and developers could move in -- pushing long-time homeowners out.

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For Lorena Castillo-Ritz, the city of Charlotte was part of her American dream. 

"My parents immigrated from El Salvador in 1953," Castillo-Ritz said.

The idea of a home of their own and a big yard to raise the family seemed attainable, Castillo-Ritz said.

"I came to buy the American dream," Castillo-Ritz said. "I lived it. My parents lived it. I want my kids to live it."

But with the potential adoption of the city’s UDO, Castillo-Ritz said that dream will go out the window for thousands of families. 

"Single-family housing has been an attendant of the American dream," Castillo-Ritz said.

The UDO would lift certain restrictions on single-family home zoning laws, meaning developers could buy up homes and build multi-use duplexes, triplexes or quadruplexes. 

Councilman Tariq Bokhari doesn’t support the plan, saying he worries it would accelerate gentrification. 

Not everyone sees the proposal the same way, though.

Many people have said that including houses other than single-family would mix people with different income levels. 

"This plan removes the historical zoning regulations that [are] forcing affordable housing out of high opportunity areas,” one person said.

Councilmembers in support of the plan believe changing zoning laws will lower housing prices and create advantages for lower-income families, while Castillo-Ritz says lower-income individuals will continue to be pushed out.

The vote for the proposal will come on Aug. 22, after city council elections.

Contact Austin Walker at awalker@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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.

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