Lyles Makes An Argument For The City To Purchase Housing

Feb 8, 2018

Mayor Vi Lyles on Charlotte Talks for "Mike and the Mayor."
Credit Erin Keever / WFAE

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles says she's worried that the city's income diversity will be hurt if it continues to lose affordable housing units and doesn't improve its bus system.

In the first of her monthly chats on Charlotte Talks with host Mike Collins, "Mike and the Mayor," Lyles expanded on an idea broached at last week's council retreat for the city to purchase housing stock. The council has been trying to grapple with the ongoing housing demand for low-income residents. This city has already made headway on adding 5,000 additional affordable housing units, housing in which the household pays no more than 30 percent of its annual earnings.

"We had a goal of 5,000 units in five years in 2016, as a council," Lyles said. "What we said is let's accelerate that same goal, preserving and building new housing. And we are on that route. And that was right after the Keith Lamont (Scott) shooting.

"So when we talk about what's going on now, think about the development pressure that's taking place from the apartments that were built that are affordable now, they were built in the '70s and the '80s, and the life cycle of those apartments are either going to mean that they either have to be reconditioned, refurbished and brought up to date, or they're going to be torn down," she said. "My fear is that we will tear down apartments where people are paying under $1,000 a month for apartments that are going to cost more than $1,000 a month.

"When we do that, we become a less diverse city," Lyles added. "And that diversity is around income levels and job opportunities."

Although the city's light rail is expanding, Lyles says the bus system needs to be improved.

"We're not growing our transportation system to make it easy for people to get to work," she said.

Lyles, who reiterated her support for the idea of the city purchasing housing, suggested that the city council and community stakeholders are on board.

"All of those things matter when you're going to have a diverse population. ... We can acquire apartments that are affordable and either keep people in them or cause new opportunities for people to move in them."