Affordable rent? Charlotte region doesn’t even have half of what’s needed

By Lauren Lindstrom, The Charlotte Observer

A new report puts in stark terms what many renters here already know: the Charlotte region badly lacks sufficient affordable, available rental units to meet the need for its lowest income residents.

New data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows the Charlotte metro area has just 38 affordable and available units for every 100 households earning up to 30% of the area median income, which is about $25,000 for a family of four.

There were 67,121 households in that income range in the region but only 25,198 units available. The metro region includes Charlotte, Gastonia, Concord and parts of South Carolina.

The report reflects 2019 data before the pandemic, but housing advocates warn income disruptions and other financial hardships of 2020 could have disastrous effects.

“With wages insufficient to pay for modest rental housing even when individuals work full-time year-round, a brief furlough or loss of hours, as we have seen over the past year, can create debts that renters can never repay,” according to the report.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag in comparison to previous year’s report, which found the Charlotte region had fewer available housing units for the lowest income families — 33 for every 100 households, which increased to 38 in the most recent data.

But while the number housing units affordable for low-income families increased since the last report, so did the number of low-income families. The national report echoes local data analysis, which has found that the greatest need for affordable housing is for those at or below 30% of the area median income.

Nowhere in America has the number of affordable rental units to meet the needs of low-income residents, according to the new national report, with some of the largest deficits in western and southern states like California, Texas and Florida. Nationwide, it amounts to a deficit of 7 million available affordable units.

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The Charlotte Journalism Collaborative 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.