In the lead-up to this evening’s city council meeting, affordable-housing advocates are calling on city leaders to “find a way” to salvage plans that include more than 160 affordable units in the redevelopment of Brookhill Village after a recent rejection of funding requests have put those plans in peril.
More than 100 local clergymembers, community organizers and other advocates signed an open letter addressed to Charlotte City Council and the Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC), a nonprofit that advises the city on housing deals and recently rejected requests for $13 million from developers to subsidize affordable housing on the site. The letter calls on city leaders to do whatever is necessary to make the plan happen.
“We cannot stand by while the New Brookhill proposal, the last opportunity to ensure affordable housing in Brookhill’s future, is lost,” states the letter, which you can read in full below. “Therefore, we have a simple message to our elected leaders on Charlotte City Council, LISC and other public and private leaders in the Queen City: Find a way.”
In an email to Lookout Housing Ventures (LHV), which bought the land lease for Brookhill Village in December 2019, LISC officials wrote that the developer would not receive the $13 million needed to fund affordable housing at the site for three reasons: no long-term financial strategy, no long-term affordability period in which rents would be restricted, and no guarantee that the property would remain affordable past its lease term.
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The money would have come from the city’s Housing Trust Fund and a separate pool of money from private companies.
LHV has been working with South Tryon Community Development Corp., headed by longtime local organizer Ray McKinnon, to help ensure current Brookhill residents are not displaced during redevelopment of the site and have a say in how it’s constructed.
There are currently 279 people living in 143 households in Brookhill Village. Original plans for New Brookhill consisted of 324 units, including 162 affordable units. Officials with LHV have said if they can’t secure the $13 million soon, they will have to move forward with the development at market rates.
City Manager Marcus Jones is scheduled to update Charlotte City Council on the Brookhill project during tonight’s city council meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. and includes a public forum, with plenty of folks expected to speak about the development.
“I’m hopeful that the city, council and staff will find a way to again show their commitment to affordable housing for our neighbors in Brookhill,” McKinnon told Queen City Nerve on Monday. “We know this will take re-imagining, but we must do everything we can to get this done.”
The following is an open letter signed by more than 100 community members. Queen City Nerve contributor Hannah Hasan also included a poem about Brookhill, which you can read below the letter:
As leaders of our community’s housing, religious, social services, equity and justice organizations, we add our voices to many others who believe that #BrookhillMatters. Our organizations and agencies work together with the families of Brookhill Village not just to meet today’s basic needs, but to build tomorrows worthy of their hard work, perseverance and dreams.
We cannot stand by while the New Brookhill proposal, the last opportunity to ensure affordable housing in Brookhill’s future, is lost. Therefore, we have a simple message to our elected leaders on Charlotte City Council, LISC and other public and private leaders in the Queen City: Find a way.
Find a way to close the $13-million gap between private and public funding that offers the only chance for historic Brookhill to be renewed and still include 162 safe, clean and affordable apartment homes. In a prosperous community, this is a small investment with returns measured in people’s futures.
Find a way to avoid displacing 279 people, including 86 children, who live in Brookhill today and value having loved ones, friends, neighbors, and houses of faith close by in a close-knit community.
Find a way to save one of two sites left in South End that offer the hope of affordable housing in this area and that can guarantee close access to jobs, transportation, health care and other services to people in our community who need these supports most.
Find a way to protect the health and well-being of Brookhill families with stable, clean and safe housing during this pandemic crisis.
Find a way to honor the legacy of Brookhill as a promised home for working families over generations by keeping this promise alive for decades ahead.
We are in an historic moment that matters because #BrookhillMatters. We stand with you to help capture this moment, but we stand apart from any decision that ends in displacement, disruption and disappointment for the families of Brookhill who depend on and deserve affordable housing.
If our City Council, government staff, and other leaders need inspiration in this moment, we say look no further than the people of Brookhill. We know you can follow their example because Brookhill families find a way to overcome challenges, overcome obstacles, and move forward together every day.
We urge you to find a way forward for New Brookhill and show that #BrookhillMatters.
Roots … A Poem for Brookhill
By Hannah Hasan
I could tell you the stories of my childhood neighborhood and never miss a beat
Can tell you about the Stevenson’s that lived at the end of the road
About Linda and Jeremy who used to live across the street
Can recall the time that the neighborhood boys started the fire in the abandoned house
Or how the neighborhood kids would do homework on our porch when their lights went out
I can speak with clarity about the moments we stood in for each other when tragedy hit or when hard times were present
Or about the times that we fought and carried on but then we turned right back around and built our community together
You see Stories of our communities capture our history, our legacy, and our truth
Stories from our communities are the reality of our roots
And when you uproot a people
Snatch from beneath them the ground where they have found a place to grow and belong
You steal the reality of the history of their stories
You take away the roots
When you take away the home.
And I’ve been having trouble understanding who makes the decisions
Gives the green light on the processing and planning
Of who from within our midst deserves the dignity of home
Of who from within our city gets to be the ones with memories that are worth holding on to
Who is fortunate enough
To recognize the spaces that housed them in their youth
Who gets kicked out and displaced
And Who gets roots?
Who gets to move away and come back one day
And say that’s the street where I learned to ride my bike
Right there under that tree is where I had my first kiss
That’s the corner store where I learned to count money
Where I would buy Debbie cakes and juice boxes, and candy, and potato chips
And in that house over there is where I cared for my grandmother in her final days
She took her last breath in the back ROOM
And our neighbors brought food for days
Because that’s the way we show that we care and that’s the kind of thing that neighbors do I ask you
Who from our city deserves the dignity of memories
And the opportunity to live in homes that are safe and affordable and available to the people who have always been there
Who from our city deserves the dignity of memories
And the knowledge and understanding that
Their basic needs are met and that the leaders approach their community with the same kind of care
That they give to those with power and privilege
With influence and wealth
That they will choose for all people
The same kind of dignity that they will choose for their own families
That they would choose for themselves
Who deserves to stay deeply rooted
To have a place that they can always belong
Who deserves the dignity of generations of memories?
Who are the people who deserve to call Brookhill home?
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