Charlotte Talks: Slowing Gentrification In Charlotte's Changing Neighborhoods

Aug 10, 2017

Darryl Gaston is a longtime resident of Charlotte's Druid Hills neighborhood, on the north side of the city. Camp North End, a massive redevelopment project is moving in next door. Gaston and his neighbors are working with developers while also trying to keep longtime residents in their homes.
Credit Charlotte Observer/David T. Foster III

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gentrification can spruce up neighborhoods but it can also price long-term residents out. We examine that and hear about what may be a first-of-its-kind effort to slow gentrification down.

Affordable housing has long been in short supply in Charlotte. Some of the most affordable housing may be the homes people have owned and lived in for years but as more people move closer in to the center city, those homes are being threatened. Developers descend on neighborhoods, buying up older homes, tearing them down and building new ones. This spruces up communities even for those who choose not to sell but if they stay, many start feeling the squeeze.

Mike Collins talks with residents in some of the affected areas of town about their dilemma and about what may be a first-of-its-kind effort to slow gentrification down.

West side residents say they need policies and resources, not gentrification

“Charlotte-Mecklenburg has an affordable housing crisis particularly for families at or below medium income. We are losing ground. 17 years ago we had a deficit of 15,000 units of affordable housing. Today, we have a 34,000 unit shortage. We don’t have policy for inclusionary zoning, which requires you build housing for different types.”

-Rickey Hall, West Side Community Land Trust board member

“Declining neighborhoods didn’t get that way by accident, they got that way through a series of policy decisions made by city and municipal leaders. It’s difficult for people of color to get business and home loans. There are intentional decisions that have been made that have put us in the position we are now.”

-Greg Jarrell, West Side Community Land Trust board member

Some highlights from the show:

On displacement

“When I talk about gentrification I tend to frame it in terms of displacement. We have a long history, this city and across this country of displacing poor people, people of color from places where they’ve lived and had access to land and businesses. The displacement of those people into other places that are less fashionable stands on a long progression. Displacement is physical and cultural.”

-Greg Jarrell, West Side Community Land Trust board member

“There’s many people in the Druid Hills community that have lived there for 50 or 60 years. The Druid Hills community was initially all white and then transitioned to African American. Now we see the integrity and fabric of the neighborhood changing as individuals with different racial backgrounds move in.”

-Darryl Gaston, president of the Druid Hills Neighborhood Association

What’s the next neighborhood to gentrify?

“The West side is certainly an area for gentrification. If you look at the close proximity of the West side to some of the city’s largest economic development generators like the airport, south end or central business area, you see development taking place and also rapid signs of gentrification. Residents are being bombarded with offers to buy their land.”

-Rickey Hall, West Side Community Land Trust board member

Gentrification or Revitalization?

“They’re paying significantly under market value. Business investments only come as the community is gentrified. You can have gentrification without revitalization. I’m looking at the history, character and culture of the community changing as a result of reverse white flight. It goes back to the history and legacy of Charlotte’s housing patterns. Greg represents the future of Charlotte’s housing dynamics.”

-Rickey Hall, West Side Community Land Trust board member

“Even the presence of white people visually can be one of the things that starts displacement. As we talk about building public and common spaces, neighborhoods are the foundational building block of a city. We have to be sure we’re building those spaces in ways that include a variety of people.”

-Greg Jarrell, West Side Community Land Trust board member

“When we talk about gentrification we also have to consider reinvestment. It is possible if they are intentional about being inclusive and how they develop the land. I’d like to see housing for middle class, young home owners. We have to consider seasoned citizens and young professionals when we think about housing, neighborhood equity and community. ”

-Darryl Gaston, president of the Druid Hills Neighborhood Association

Guests

Rickey Hall - west side resident, longtime community activist, West Side Community Land Trust board member

Greg Jarrell - west side resident, West Side Community Land Trust board member

Darryl Gaston - north side resident, neighborhood advocate, president of the Druid Hills Neighborhood Association