Keeping It Real: Our Association Supports Affordable Housing

AnneMarieWEB2015By Anne Marie DeCatsye, CEO

Realtors® Care Day (RCD) is around the corner — on Friday, April 28 — and I hope you’re planning to volunteer. Making critical repairs and improvements to homes of low-income residents in our region is an important way Realtors® address the important issue of affordable housing. Since 2009, we’ve helped more than 200 homeowners through RCD.

Everyone who cares about affordable housing knows we need more of it. That includes our Association, which took a bit of a black eye in the media last fall because no affordable-housing component existed in Peter Pappas’ plans to redevelop our 5.2 acres in Midtown and build a badly needed new headquarters for us.

We had been in talks with Pappas for 21 months, and in the 11th hour, we were afraid that his lack of affordable housing in the development might derail us. We’re glad it didn’t, but we’re disappointed about the black eye for several reasons.

First, we desperately need a new building. Our current one, built in 1970, is limping along. We started the process of finding a developer more than two years ago to remedy this situation.

Second, the Association is not a developer. The fiduciary responsibility of the Association is to our members. The Association Board of Directors began assembling land in Midtown more than 10 years ago. In the past five years, the Association leadership established the goal of building a new headquarters.

Our goal is for proceeds from the land to pay for our new building, which, in turn, will provide us a revenue stream from room rentals as well as tenants renting space in the structure — much as we’ve done with our existing building. Had we made affordable housing a requirement of a developer in the Request for Proposal process, we don’t believe we would have received the land price we needed to achieve these goals and thus act in the best interest of our members.

Third, our Association does a great deal to support affordable housing in our community. I’m sure over the last 15 years the volume of hours and dollars we’ve committed to the effort is a multimillion dollar investment. You can see details in the sidebar with this story. It’s a letter I sent to the mayor and Charlotte City Council on behalf of the Association in November. Here are highlights:

  • We support affordable housing primarily through our Housing Opportunity Foundation, which runs RCD each year. We work with housing nonprofits and local government to identify deserving homeowners. Since 2009, the year RCD began, nearly 5,000 Realtors® have assisted 205 families and nonprofits with essential repairs for an estimated economic impact of more than $1 million.
  • Prior to RCD, we sponsored a Home Giveaway annually to an individual who made 80 percent or less of our area’s median income and had completed homeownership training through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership. We helped nearly 125 people become ready to buy homes and gave away five homes with the collective value of more than $547,000.
  • Since 2007, through foundation grant programs, we’ve distributed more than $300,000 to nonprofits in the region who focus on affordable housing and homelessness. The foundation also sponsors a Workforce Housing Certificate Program for Realtors® and hosts a variety of events and activities to support affordable housing and housing the homeless.

The Association is also happy that adjacent to what Pappas is planning for our 5.2 acres is a promising affordable housing possibility. The Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) and Mecklenburg County Park and Rec have been in talks for several years about a land swap that would enable CHA to build up to 150 affordable units not far from Pearl Street Park and our new headquarters. We hope that happens.

In November when the city council approved a zoning request related to the Pappas project, we were afraid that approval might not happen because of the affordable-housing question, and that our new headquarters could get further delayed. Prior to the meeting, we strived to educate council members on our affordable housing and headquarters efforts. On a unanimous voice vote, the council voted for the rezoning.

It dawned on me that it is quite possible that even our own members do not know how much the Association does to help with all aspects of the housing continuum, from homelessness to sustaining homeownership. We also want to make sure that everyone understands that our Association has an affordable housing track record and commitment that we’re proud of. I encourage you to read the attached letter and consider becoming involved in these efforts; our Housing Opportunity Foundation is only as strong as our member support.

Remember, Realtors® Care Day is coming up April 28 – that may be the best place to start. Signing up to volunteer is easy.