Friday, March 17, 2006

East, West Charlotte treated unfairly?

Not surprising, really, but the two most affluent City Council districts, 6 and 7, have only a tiny proportion of the city’s federally subsidized Section 8 voucher rentals. The vouchers help low-income households pay for rents they otherwise couldn't afford.

The breakdown of where the vouchers go has been eagerly sought by East Charlotte neighborhood activists, among others, who think their part of town holds a disproportionate share of government-funded affordable housing. The Observer’s Karen Cimino acquired the breakdown – which is public information – from a GIS analyst in the city’s Neighborhood Development department.

Her article Thursday in the Neighbors of University City section ought to generate some interesting talk.

(Cimino tells me her earlier requests to the Charlotte Housing Authority for Section 8 vouchers sorted by Zip code still haven’t produced the data. Guess it takes a City Council member – in this case District 4 rep Michael Barnes, who asked city staff for it – to spur some public agencies to make public information public.)

The breakdown is by City Council district, which makes it a bit tough to analyze in an East Charlotte v. West Charlotte v. South Charlotte kind of way. That’s because District 2, for instance, covers chunks of what would be considered West Charlotte as well as University City (northeast Charlotte); District 5 covers parts of East Charlotte and South Charlotte; and District 1 covers all the way from Dilworth to chunks of East Charlotte.

But the numbers are stark: The affluent, predominantly white District 7 (far south Charlotte) has 34 Section 8 vouchers. District 6 (closer-in south Charlotte) has 193. Even their combined total of 227 is dramatically less than any other single district.

District 3 (generally west and southwest Charlotte) leads with 921. District 2 (generally northwest, north and northeast, and with more than 5,000 more housing units) is next with 917. The predominantly east Charlotte District 5 has 757, with District 1 close behind at 754. (Note that District 5 holds 4,500 fewer housing units than District 1). District 4, which is most of University City, has 588.

Some caveats: Landlords have to voluntarily apply to receive Section 8 vouchers from renters, so those in high-demand, more affluent parts of town have little incentive to enroll in the program.

Federal policy supposedly is to try to spread Section 8 housing around, so as not to overburden one neighborhood. It doesn’t seem particularly effective, from what the numbers show. The city says it wants to do the same. But the marketplace, left to its devices, isn’t accomplishing that.

Why care? Because when too much low-income housing gets too concentrated, property values throughout that area drop, undercutting the the city tax base. And that means higher taxes for all of us.

Experience has shown that a small percentage of affordable housing units sprinkled lightly through affluent areas don’t affect property values. Why doesn’t the city require all housing developments to include a small percentage of affordable units? Other cities do this, and it works well.

It prevents the stark economic segregation we’re now seeing in Charlotte.


Anonymous said...

Mary, I think you are absolutely correct.

Charlotte needs to better integrate our lower income neighborhoods into the mainstream.

I think you should take this cause to city hall and get some low income section 8 housing built in Dilworth, Myers Park, and perhaps dedicate a few new uptown highrises to specifically cater to section 8 and minorities.

This issue has been paid lip service for far too long, and it is time for the city to act.

It is simply modern day racism when people in wealthy neighborhoods can just exclude the less fortunate through defacto economic segregation.

Thanks for covering this.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone surprised to find subsidized housing more prevalent in lower income areas than in high income areas. You would have a story if the affluent were receiving the housing subsidy. Webster's Dictionary would tell you the low income is more likely to receive housing assistance.

However raising the fairness issue is a poorly disguised mask for a subject dearer to your heart. The forcing of "affordability" on any development. Anytime the opportunity is provide by governmental force for someone to live where they cannot normally afford someone else is denied the opportunity to live there.

Why stop at Dilworth and Myers Park? Lake Property is expensive but I for one have my eye on beach property I can't afford. Perhaps if I can convince government to make some coastal property available to me at a subsidized price.....

The dispersal of subsidized housing was meant to prevent the Planning disasters of high rise slums such as those in the Bronx and Chicago. I don't think it was envisioned as a great equalization social project despite what some Planners might currently envision.

By the way more research is required on your part be stating it works in other cities. I understand it has caused mostly heartache of unintended consequences and not a Utopia of equality.

Jimmy Mac said...

Well someone has finally had enough ba**s to call Charlotte on it's false diversity claims.
I have lived in West Charlotte for 15 years and have seem the influx of section 8 housing to my middle class working neighborhood.
We have welcome those folks with open arms simple because most of us have been in their postion at one time.
Mary's column today didn't shock me or my neighbors because we already knew the truth about how the poor and the working poor are treated in this city.
The rich folk in this town try to make up for their evilness and discrimination in housing by contributing to the hundreds of social service programs through out this county.
Hoping that the poor folk will stay quiet and docile.
If they really want to be a decent human beings they would start doing the right thing when it comes to housing of all people.
Until that happens I will continue to look at every move made by our civic and business leaders with a jaundice eye.

Anonymous said...

To the previous poster - that is because Charlotte is full of a bunch of Baptist/Christian hypocrites.

Rick said...

jimme mac...

Define "rich folk". Is it someone who makes $30k a year? Is it someone who makes $100k a year? Or, as I suspect, is it just someone who makes more than you. That would just be simple jealousy.

Am I rich, because I choose to live in the suburbs? Am I evil because I don't want to live in a low income neighborhood? Maybe I'm evil because I don't pay the mortgage on someone else's house in addition to my own. How about the people who were born into a low income neighborhood, worked hard, and got out. Are they evil?

I'm not sure what you and Mary want, but I think they had it going in East Berlin - before the wall fell.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte city leaders will build an African American musuem, and name a street after Martin Luther King, but have ABSOLUTELY no intentions of ever allowing low income 'economically diverse' neighborhoods into Center City, Myers Park, etc.

Nearly a billion dollars spent on the arena, NASCAR, the Arts, and the light rail could have gone toward subsidized housing to help families in poor, crime ridden neighborhoods escape the viscious cycle of violence and poverty and get back in the main stream.

People in these neighborhoods need to be integrated with affluent white neighborhoods to 'learn' how to be successful, have access to better schools, and get out of the poverty cycle.

Charlotte city leaders are happy to keep them caged in the west and east sides, and do NOT want them in tify town anywhere.

Gasp, what would NASCAR had thought (a la Atlanta) if they cam to visit Uptown and there were a bunch of African Americans running around. (sarcasm)

Anonymous said...

In reality, it's not overt racism. It's the outcome of people of means seeking to maximize their quality of life and opportunities for their children. I see nothing evil in that. However, pure market forces are amoral--they reflect the biases inherent in our culture. Thus, we get class-based divisions.

That being said, better planning could be used to harness market forces in a way that promotes fair share housing. Before the free marketeers get up in arms, I'm talking about sharing a societal burden. Just as we all profit from the money-making activities that emit pollutants into the air, certain groups should not necessarily be allowed to avoid the negative outcomes of those activities (especially those who profit the most). Likewise, plenty of affluent people benefit from low-cost labor in their private businesses, but are then allowed to insulate themselves spatially from those folks. When concentrated, lower-income groups tend to have higher rates of crime, lower quality schools, less stable families.

University City, thanks to lax development rules and a lack of political clout, is currently getting the brunt of Section 8 housing. The supply of housing (single-family and multi-family) relative to demand is out-of-balance, leading landlords to seek out federal programs to find tenants. Better planning on the front-end (are you listening Ms. Campbell?) might limit this phenomenon.

The way I look at it, if they are good enough to flip your burgers, sweep your floors, pour your lattes and manicure your lawn, they're good enough to live in proximity to you. Following an extreme laisse faire ideology will not achieve any semblance of fair share housing.

Jimmy Mac said...

In response to Rick,please don't bury your head in the sand with your not so sutle bias towards the poor and working poor.
You know exactly what I'm speaking of if you have lived in this city and county for any length of time.

Anonymous said...

One suggestion I would put forth is to create an 'Uptown Tax' that for evey new unit of private sector residential development, the developer has to contribute one unit in the same building to low income/racially diverse residents.

Clearly the private sector has no impetus for helping those in need, so the city needs to step in and make them do it.

It is an investment in the future. Government needs to get these kids out of poverty and integrated into better neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

Why should the government at any level provide housing for anyone? Whatever happened to personal responsibility? It's not a racial thing at all. Successful people (of any race) should not be made out to be "evil" for having the means to have the things that other people seem to think they are entitled. If you want a home in Ballantyne or on the lake, then work to make it happen. Stop depending on the government to make it happen for you.

Anonymous said...

Are poor people born deaf? All my life, from childhood on, I've heard from all authority figures that you have to attend school, do your homework, and work hard, and if you don't, then you and you alone will pay the price ("When you cheat on this test, you're only cheating yourself" comes to mind). I did these things, and now, every morning I get up, fight traffic, and go work hard for what money I earn. The home I own, the car I drive, and the other creature comforts I have reflect my adherence to the work ethic that was instilled in me. I remember being in school, and seeing other children skipping class, backtalking the teacher, carrying no books home and doing no homework. Now, I see exact replicas of these same children hanging out on the corners in my neighborhood all afernoon, walking around in little gangs, using filthy language...presumably with nothing better to do. The ONLY reason these people live in my neighborhood is because of the Section 8 vouchers, and even though I have played "by the rules" all my life, the lazy sloths who have accomplished nothing and do nothing, get to enjoy the same lifestyle as I do. I say we completely get rid of the Section 8 plan, get out of the subsidized housing business, and start getting on the personal responsibility wagon. Where's the incentive to work hard for the American dream, when someone can enjoy the same benefits while having children they can't educate or support, lazing around on their porches all day while the rest of us contribute to society, and feel as if they don't have to lift a finger to further their own lives? Maybe if these handouts were completely stopped and these people had to take responsibility for their own actions, there would be far fewer unwed mothers, resulting in far fewer lazy children growing up to burden our society with their criminal behavior, and far fewer people suckling at the teat of government...subsidized by the very people who would be so much happier if this dead weight wasn't being foisted on the good, working people of this country who actually work for their existence.

Rick said...

actually jimmie,

my comments had nothing to do with the opinions on the poor or working poor. they were specifically directed at your comments about how rich people are evil even if they donate money.

as you point out there are "hundreds of social service programs through out this county", but apparently that is not enough for you. I'm just curious what would be enough. since you did't answer any of my questions, I guess I'll never know.

I would agree with you on one thing - more could be done. however, calling people "evil" who have money, while at the same time deinigrating the contributions that they do make just seems a little over the top.

Anonymous said...

How about this idea...

I'll try to combine some of the ideas presented by others into something that might resemble a workable solution.

An "Uptown Tax" with expectations for personal responsibility on the part of the recipients of the "affordable"/Section 8 housing.

1. Uptown developers have to build one low income unit for each open market unit.

2. The open market units pay zero in property taxes to off-set the higher prices of these units caused by the low income units. (The open market is the open market, and there is no denying that developers would charge more for these units to off-set their costs for the lower income units.)

3. The recipients of the lower income units must maintain employment. In the event of unemployment, these workers will volunteer at government programs or work as day laborers. If immigrants (legal or illegal) can work at these sites, then so can people on government assistance.

4. The children of these Section 8 voucher recipients get to go to the best public schools available.

5. These children must maintain a B average in school with 1 semester every 3 years given as an exception. As mentioned in this blog, the point of this is to break the cycle of poverty. C students don't get into good colleges, B students do. (Tutoring will be provided for parents who cannot support their children’s education because of their own lack of educational achievement.)

6. Any sort of criminal or disruptive activity will not be tolerated.

7. There is one penalty for not meeting these criteria - eviction.

I'm sure this couldn't possibly work because people on the right will see it as a handout, and people on the left will see it as too restrictive. That's too bad.

Jimmy Mac said...

In response to Rick:Deep down inside you well maybe a decent human being yourself.
But most rich folk that I have meet or know are too full of themselves to understand that their little donation to the various social service agencies,does nothing to better society.
For most it's looked at as a tax break.
I stand by my words of evil

Anonymous said...

Applause for 'Anonymous' with the plan for new uptown housing units.

Anonymous said...

We live in a neighborhood that is largely rental, and largely Section 8. We bought our house 2 years ago when the neighborhood was brand new, and we can't take it anymore. We're selling and getting out of here before our property value drops even more.

We can't start the Homeowner's Association because there aren't enough owners, and the landlords will not come to the meetings, and will not send a proxy. So we're stuck with a bunch of people who trash houses, their own and others, the kids run amok and vandalize everything in sight, there are fights in front of my house every day, at the bus stops, at the corners.

We've tried and tried to set up Neighborhood Watch, have meetings, call the police every time something is amiss (that's ALOT of calling, let me tell you.)

This neighborhood is THREE YEARS OLD. It looks worse than Piedmont Courts. We had said we'd be here after they were gone, we'd stick around and run them off one by one. Selling drugs? We'd call the police and the landlord. Loud kids? Same. Thirty people living in one house? Call landlord.

All they do is go around the corner and rent another house. The same people are STILL in this neighborhood, even though they no longer have Section 8.

This is it for us. We've decided to move to a neighborhood where there are few, if any, rentals, at least for a few years. This particular builder does not sell to investors, which was something we did not know to look at when we first bought a house. We have no idea what the long term solution is, but we know it's not happening in our neighborhood now.

Anonymous said...

There is no grand conspiracy to keep section 8 vouchers out of affluent areas. It's basic economics. I am a section 8 landlord and would love to get section 8 vouchers, but it doesn't make sense.

Section 8 pays as little as possible for rent based on the number of bedrooms in the home. Since homes in South Charlotte cost more than homes in West Charlotte, I wouldn't make any money if I rent South Charlotte homes using section 8.

As a tax payer, I think this is the right approach. With government spending and taxes already too high, I don't want to pay extra money so that section 8 tentants can live in a more expensive part of the city.

Anonymous said...


Sorry, I meant to say "I am a section 8 landlord and would love to get section 8 vouchers" for South Charlotte homes.

Anonymous said...

Section 8 residences hurt neighborhood because they are notorious for not taking care of the property. If they would keep their vehicles off the lawn, pick up their trash, mow, trim the hedges, clean their gutters, call the City for bulky item pickup, take in their roll-out containers and so on, I don't think anyone would mind. Supposedly the Housing Authority can withdraw the voucher if the residents to not follow code-- but this is not enforced, and as long as neighborhoods can't find out which houses are Section 8, they can't report them.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is related to speculation. After the stock market drop in 2001, every Donald Trump wannabe jumped from stocks into housing and landlordism. The combination of low interest rates, the proliferation of exotic loan products and new attitudes about debt (leverage your house as a personal piggybank) produced a situation of hyper-speculation. Fueling the fire are national builders who chase capital (any $ will do) rather than community and you get Charlotte today.

In my neighborhood, we have rental housing owned by speculators in California who have likely never seen the property in person. It's absurd.

Anonymous said...

True enough. the very LAST thing I like to see in my neighborhood is someone who moves and utimately decides to rent their house rather than sell it. I don't believe there is a single section 8 subsidized rental in the neighborhood, but it is nonetheless a simple matter to figure out which houses are rentals and which are owner occupied.

But that raises an issue regarding something Mary said regarding the secion 8's: that in concentration they depress property values. I'm sure that's true, but I wonder if it isn't also the case that they even in low concentrations they don't have the effect of depressing the sale value of the houses immediately around them. I KNOW that to be the case with rentals in our neighborhood, and I suspec that it would be equaly the case with section 8 rentals in any neighborhood. Buyers apparently prefer to avoid buying next to a neighbor who does not adequately maintain their grounds and house.

If that is the case, then merely reducing the concentration of section 8's in an area is still going to have an economic effect, but that effect will be limited to their immediate neighbors. And logic would then suggest that when a developer puts a low income unit in the midst of higher value houes, he is going to effect the desrieability of those adjacent units and as a result thier saleability and value. That being the case, it seems fairly obvious why developers resist it: because their customers will resist it nand it won't make economic sense to do so.

Anonymous said...

How do you mix the less affluent with the more affluent?

Here is an example from 1897:

Many of these houses are subdivided and mix ownership with rental.

Likewise, think about mixing in the occasional “affordable” unit in attached housing, paying particular attention to avoiding a “tipping point” where capital flight occurs.

Anonymous said...

As much as you want to dump the 'personal responsibility' agrument on us, the fact is the 5 year olds in poor, urban neighborhoods are just going to grow up to be dependent on the gov unless you can teach them early.

The reason I would advocate that governemnt replace fathers in this instance is that unless you do so, those kids will just grow up to repeat all the same mistakes and ultimately cost society more money than if you do something now.

If you want any evidence as to what tidy town thinks about helping these people, just wait til they all get kicked out of South Park to make room for some more 'Dean annd Delucas'.

The reason the 'rich' get richer is because they hang out with other rich people.

The reason the poor get poorer is because their lives are immersed in the worst influences possible.

They need to be removed and replaced amongst people who dont make bad decisions all the time and where academic expectations are higher.

CMS is defending schools that have a pass rate of 30% as being 'good schools.'

If our school had a pass rate below 80% we would demand the principal be fired ;-)

Charlotte should selectively buy some homes in Dilworth, South Park, Myers Park, Eastover, etc., and give them to some specifically targeted families and just take some baby steps.

Rick said...

I'll take credit for the anonymous plan. I sent it in as anonymous to see if I could goad jimmie mac into calling someone else evil again. I figured the tax break part for the developers might bring out his "rich people are evil" reflex response.

These types of forums almost always focus on name calling and radical positions from the left and right. There are hardly ever any specific recommendations that are workable and take into account reasonable actions that need to be taken by both rich AND poor.

It's either "the rich people should pay for everything, and the poor deserve to live in Myers Park", or "poor people lower property values, and I'm going to move to another county because my taxes are too high".

What good does that do anybody?

I'd personally like to hear the workable solutions of others with very specific details. That makes for a more interesting and less theoretical conversation. It might even accomplish something.

Anonymous said...

One must feel for the person who worked hard purchased a home and then had the "dream" become a nightmare by government action in subsidizing those who did not work hard and consequently did not appreciate a home.This same story would be tragic in any area or neighborhood.

However to think that simply placing subsidized housing in higher income neighborhoods will magicly change the behaviors described is wrong. We have a society riddle with gangsta rap on radio and tv. Glory is given to street thugs and street life. Not only will simply living in higher income neighborhoods not change those behaviors but actually having higher income or mega income will not change these behaviors as evidenced by the trials and tribulations of rap stars, actors, actresses and atheletes. Some take pride that they don't change behavior or friends so they don't lose street "cred".

As long as these behaviors are tolerated and even subsidized then true hero's such as people who work hard to buy a home, and others who break the cycle will be doing all they can to avoid those behaviors as well. Leaving those who practice that behavior to cluster together. No one else wants to tolerate the behaviors.

The solution is not found in a magic government program. The solution is found in family, church and our own behavior as role models for our children.

Anonymous said...

If a black women with three kids has a husband who leaves her onher own, that is not a 'behavior'.

The 3 kids are screwed growing up surrounded by gangs and bad schools and a mom who can work two jobs to live in such splendor.

Instead of throwing money indiscriminately at the problem, Charlotte should create a strong framework for targeting the appropriate high risk families that would benefit from living in nicer neighborhoods and help them get there.

How can anyone in Myers Park, Dilworth, etc. call themselves decent human beings and perhaps good Christians if they do not open their neighborhoods up to those in need?

I am not talking about gangsters, but poor families who are struggling but trying to make a better life. They do exist.

Anonymous said...

I really question the common wisdom that placing people who are not economically successful in neighborhoods where most people are will cause them to learn to be successful. I don't know that most people have much direct interaction with their neighbors in the first place. AndI'm reasonably certain that much of that interaction does not come in the form that would allow one person to provide examples to the other.

Learning requires that one believe they have something to learn, and that someone else has something to teach them. It requires in this case that the less successful believe that their economic status is the result of choices they make and that they can learn to make better choices, as well as requiring them to believe that the well to do neighbor succeeded because of choices he made. At least my experience is that most people who are economically successful do indeed believe that it is due to the choices they've made, but it is also my experience that most people who are economically not as well of DON'T believe that it is the result of their choices, but rather the result of a fundamental unfairness in the American system.

That is not a prescription for learning much of anything.

Ed said...

You write, "Why care? Because when too much low-income housing gets too concentrated, property values throughout that area drop, undercutting the city tax base. And that means higher taxes for all of us."

I'd feel less like a government-owned milk cow if we would at least pretend that, as an analogy, we fight heart disease because it damages lives, rather than because it reduces the labor hours we can tax.

If the primary concern about the concentration of low-income housing is that it "undercuts the city tax base", then I assume my purpose as a citizen of Charlotte is to increase the city tax base, and the proper first principle of decisions is "does this optimize our take?". That mode of thinking is leading to the "South oulevardization" of this city, and the building of Atlanta Jr.

This reminds me of the aviation joke about an airliner that was being sent all over the sky by flight controllers and being treated rudely by them. The pilot asks in a Chuck Yeager drawl, " 'Scuse me sir, but am I up here because you're down there, or are you down there because I'm up here?"

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the 757 Section 8 vouchers in District 5 are all located north of Independence.

The problem is that many of the kids in these families are not getting educational advantages or supervision at home. Their parents (whether 1 or 2) frequently are not lazy, but are working 2 or 3 jobs to put food on the table because they did not get enough education when they were growing up.

So when you concentrate all these kids who have not gotten a lot of pre-school preparation or educational home support in the same schools together, and combine them with all the non-English-speaking kids who live in the same area, you are creating an impossible situation for hard-pressed teachers. The result: you produce future adults who do not have enough education to support their families. And you keep the cycle going.

The idea of spreading out low-income families is to give those kids a chance to get at least some of the same attention and educational advantages that kids from middle- and upper-class families have. Kids learn from each other as well as from teachers.

We're not building places like Piedmont Courts and Earl Village anymore. But placing all those families in the same sections of town is effectively making whole neighborhoods function as if you actually had built them as public housing developments.

And what about requiring recipients of Section 8 vouchers to attend some classes on the responsiblities of citizenship within a neighborhood? And penalizing them if they are reported too many times for ignoring city codes? We can't expect to just hand people money and expect them to know how to use it and behave well if they have never been taught.

Jimmy Mac said...

Our elected officals don't care where folks on section 8 live,as long as it's not in their neighborhood.
Now that's just the plain truth!

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