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March 26, 2024

Addressing Anti-Displacement in the Charlotte Region

By Alexa Johnson

Article written by Devyn Maurer

Many homeowners from throughout the Habitat Charlotte Region service areas are grappling with the challenges of being displaced from their homes. Gentrification, lack of affordable housing in more desirable communities, increased property taxes, an inability to keep up with property repairs, and rising insurance costs on fixed incomes are forcing them out. Elders, veterans, people with disabilities and those with health challenges find displacement even more threatening.

Specifically, displacement happens in a community when residents are forced to relocate from their homes or neighborhoods when they would have preferred to stay but could not due to outward pressures such as socio-economic or environmental struggles. As an area begins to improve due to increased investment and/or development, the community changes in other ways, including a rise in property values which thus raises property taxes, rent, and cost of living. This new financial reality can hit a community hard, forcing out low-to-moderate income residents who may not have the financial resources to adjust to increased living and housing costs.

Causes of displacement are complex and layered, stemming from systemic and historical barriers. Economic and job insecurity coupled with an increasing racial and gender wealth gap (caused by years of racial and gender discrimination) contribute to the problem. The recent pandemic is a formidable example of how a global crisis can burden communities even more, specifically with the continued insufficient housing supply. Ultimately, displacement not only destroys communities but can cause irreparable harm to its residents, taking a toll on their physical and mental health by exacerbating anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and domestic violence.

Addressing displacement involves everyone. In addition to being a housing advocate, Habitat Charlotte Region not only focuses on educating the community and elected officials on affordable housing, they also are working to expand housing production and preservation of “naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH).”

Other solutions include approving “inclusionary zoning” regulations that require and incentivize new housing developments to set aside units for affordable housing. Housing Trust Funds (HTF) help support and fund affordable housing production. Land use reform policies are another option and allow multiple housing units on a single plot of land to increase supply.

The housing crisis is a reality impacting the economic, social, and political well-being of most cities and towns within the region. For example, the City of Charlotte calculated that 32,000 housing units are needed for more than 50,000 Charlotte residents. The Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization (NEST) Commission was created in an effort to protect against unintended consequences of the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan and consists of a cross section of local volunteers with a passion for affordable housing. They report to the Charlotte City Council’s Housing, Safety, and Community Committee, and since its inception in 2022, have created anti-displacement strategies, tools, and recommendations for adoption by the council and implementation by the City.

Currently, Charlotte supports many programs for anti-displacement, with NEST working towards perfecting and adding to them, including Tax Relief, an increase in funding for the Housing Trust Fund, and Utility assistance. From this attention, the city has also presented the City of Charlotte Community Displacement Toolkit, which gives information on displacement risk and vulnerability.

Other programs include the Davidson Tax Assistance Program (DTAP), which was created so that the town’s eligible homeowners could apply for additional support to pay property taxes. This anti-displacement effort was done in collaboration with the Davidson Community Foundation which donated $22,000 toward the program. The grants are paid directly to Iredell or Mecklenburg County’s tax collector and lessens the financial burden for that particular homeowner.

The Smithville Community Coalition (SCC) has developed a revitalization plan for this historic Black Cornelius neighborhood and continues as a gateway to the town of Cornelius. With the average price of a home averaging $500,000 (Zillow), SCC has hopes of raising significant resources to protect Smithville from gentrification, preserve the existing housing stock, ensure access to critical home repair for its residents, secure vacant lots, and beautify the neighborhood.

The struggle against anti-displacement requires policymakers, community organizers, developers, and residents’ efforts. By working together, we can build more inclusive and vibrant neighborhoods without sacrificing the well-being of those who call these existing neighborhoods “home.”

The fight against anti-displacement fosters opportunities for sustainable, affordable housing, and Habitat for Humanity of The Charlotte Region is proud to be on the frontlines. If you would like to get involved in our advocacy efforts, please sign up for our advocacy newsletter here.

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