Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ballantyne 'affordable housing'? It was there at the start

It turns out that affordable housing – a better term is "below market-rate housing" – was required to be built in Ballantyne as part of its rezoning request, which county commissioners approved in November 1991. This was more than just a verbal agreement from developer Johnny Harris. It was part of the legally enforceable zoning agreement. And the housing was built. (This relates to Tommy Tomlinson's column today, "Is public housing Ballantyne's IOU?", in which he notes that we taxpayers spent millions to create the highways that allowed Ballantyne to prosper.)

Planning consultant Walter Fields, who for many years was land development manager for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg planning staff, worked with the Harris family over a period of years, starting in the 1980s, about their development plans for what used to be called "The South Farm," a beautiful tract that was part of late Gov. Cameron Morrison's vast property holdings.

"There was definitely something in there [the rezoning agreement] and they definitely did it," he told me. He recalled it was small-lot, single family housing. And he pointed out one problem with those sorts of "affordable housing" provisions: Unless other mechanisms are in place the housing is below-market rate when it's first sold, but after than it sells for whatever anyone can sell it for. Which is why, let me note, there's still a need for below-market rate housing in the area.

Today, Ballantyne is awash with apartments, which Fields points out are another form of "affordable housing." He was approached, he says, by a lot of people for help in fighting the now-dropped proposal for subsidized apartments at Providence Road West and Johnston Road. "I turned them all down," he says. As a consultant he often advocates for multifamily.

And, he recalls, during negotiations with the city-county planning department over Ballantyne the planners were continually pushing the importance of a mix of housing types at Ballantyne.

But the project was controversial, not least because that was in the era when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was really trying to integrate its schools, because it was legally required to, part of a court order in effect. (Today, schools in the Ballantyne area are far less integrated than in much of the rest of the county; Hawk Ridge Elementary is 10 percent black; Community House Middle and Ardrey Kell High are 12 percent black.) Some school board members weren't happy about the prospect of a vast sea of white kids that they'd be required to bus long distances – or, conversely, having to bus another sea of nonwhite kids long distances. Of course, that problem got solved by the dissolving of the court order to integrate ...

This is from an article in October 1991, by the Observer's Liz Chandler:
"Louise Woods [who later served on the school board], representing a citizens group, urged commissioners to make Harris detail how many low- and moderate-income homes he will build.
"We request that the Ballantyne proposal include a section of affordable moderate- and low-income housing," Woods said in a letter signed by seven others.
Woods also said school and county officials should scrutinize Harris' plans to ensure Ballantyne is an integrated community. Neighboring subdivisions are predominantly white. The group is concerned about what they see is a trend resulting in long bus rides for black students brought in to achieve integration."


consultant said...

We all should support a society free of racial discrimination and other forms of "group" discrimination.

Today, the notion of busing blacks kids to white schools because one thinks white schools are "better" is hopelessly outdated.

That some schools, especially schools in white neighborhoods are better is one of the enduring myths of the last 40 years or so.

Yes, at one point, in that 1950's to 1960's period, white schools had more resources. But that's mostly all gone now. And by that I mean, some of these "white" schools do have more material resources, but they are LOUSY educational institutions.

Until we admit to ourselves that our schools are failing children of color AND white children, nothing will be done to really help our children learn.

Our K-12 school system is a travesty. Many of our private K-12 schools are in the same boat.

J said...

As I've noted in other columns/articles on this issue, some objections to having Section 8 housing in one's own neighborhood are valid. There are too many people in Section 8 that have been there forever, have no intention whatsoever in paying for their own living space, and see nothing wrong with stealing from others. Yes, there are plenty of honest, hard-working people with Section 8 vouchers. And there's nothing wrong with helping people who have fallen into a hole - temporarily. Section 8 vouchers need to have limits for most recipients. Five years seems about right. That way they have 5 years to better educate or train themselves and get into a job that can afford market rates for a place to live.

All that being said, folks were WAY too hysterical about the amount of public housing units in this proposal - 86 units isn't nearly enough to destroy the Ballentyne way of life.

Cedar Posts, Life Floating By and Meckburbia said...

Boycotting Mary's Blog until all comments are welcome.

Ani821 said...

Mary, I respectfully ask why you are turning this into an indictment of folks living in Ballatyne by insinuating that people who live there are elitists snobs and racists . . rather than addressing the people who ARE responsible for planning and land deveopment oversight in CHARMECK as to why THEY didn't manage the land/zoning properly and thus ensure affordable housing–IF, indeed, that has been an issue of such burning importance for the last 20 years.

I believe building large homes and upscale retail, both of which generate sizable tax revenue, may have been a bigger, more important issue to CHARMECK than "affordable housing." Otherwise, why did no one think about this issue til now? Not as though the city has been working towards controlling development of Ballantyne with anything other than $$$ to tax coffers in mind.

Ten Rows of Teeth said...

Mary's article does not paint Ballantyne residents as elitists. Tommy did a story on the Public Housing in Ballantyne and made the claim that in 1991 when Johnny Harris applied for rezoning affordable housing was required as a condition of the approval of the rezoning. Readers disputed it and asked for proof. Mary did the research and verified what Tommy claimed.
Is Balantyne elitist? read teh comments do some people who live there from the Observer comments section such as this:

"wpnation wrote on 02/21/2010 03:18:52 PM:
Keep the people that actually work hard for their money in Ballantyne. Those that sit around and collect welfare and don't do anything to help America but only promote the image of a "idiotic America" should stay in the Eastland Mall area and only bring down that side of town. We should promote the policy of containment for these "hood rats""
"USA13RX5 wrote on 02/22/2010 05:01:29 PM:
I live in Ballantyne, I chose to live there because it is a nice area and has low crime and we pay for that right by our home prices. A low income development is not welcome and I have the right to say it. If you do live there and support the housing project then that is your right as well. If you dont live there then mind you own business in your trailer park..."

I'm guessing "wpnation" does not mean Winnie th Pooh. Unless Winnie the Pooh has a swatstika branded on his forehead>
I was unaware that people of Ballantyne have special rights other American's don't have that legally protect them from anything that makes their life less luxurious. And suddenly all of their comments about being high and mighty sort of seem hypocritical when they are breaking agreements to include affordable housing. Stating it doesn't belong there when infact it is. A community of Cheaters who only care about themselves. I guess that's what they consider Success in Ballantyne. zero compassion for the poor either
The real deal on ballantyne is it is a Glorified Vinylville. Hard work? Anyone with a heartbeat who applied for a zero down stated income loan could have moved there (and did) over the last ten years. That's why the foreclosure rate is so high. It's really not home to the rich by any means. we all know where the real wealth live in Charlotte and most of those houses were built before vivyl existed nevermind was considered a legitimate building material by "Wealthy educated eople". What bugs me is all these people act like just because they want to live there everyone else does. please spare me the torture of that exisitence. I'll take my modest American built home anyday. I have nothing to prove as far as my status. I have a great career and I get nos satisfaction out of showing off my money or my belongings. It's pretty tacky and embarassing. A vinyl house in the burbs is about as impressive as a butterfly collar and gold chain

Brendan said...

"Is public housing Ballantyne's IOU?", in which he notes that we taxpayers spent millions to create the highways that allowed Ballantyne to prosper"

Then we built the light rail out to the southern burbs to decrease the congestion on those highways. Don't get me wrong, I'll take a train over a freeway any day. But most of the LYNX ridership is suburban park-and-riders.

Jumper said...

There is much that is awful about Section 8 housing, and a fair chunk of it is the landlords. Also known as slumlords, a sentiment echoed on both the "left" and "right" sides, at least by those who research it.

Perhaps if the folks in Ballantyne had believed in collective action - refusing to be run out of the central city - the developers would have been forced to build in more sustainable fashion.

I am convinced many folks are not smart home consumers. Good luck with the OSB. The roofs with very few nails. The concrete weakened by water dilution. The sinking foundations and cracking. The manufactured bottomless sinkholes in the backyards. The lack of energy efficiency. Not to mention the imported gasoline costs. The soon-to-appear road degradation. Etc.

But like my physics teacher used to say, "In America, you have the right to remain ignorant."