News & Opinion

Coalition Calls on City to Implement Solutions to Displacement in Charlotte

Housing Justice Coalition releases resolution including 31 demands for local leaders

The Housing Justice Coalition held a press conference Thursday to present a Housing Resolution, which includes 31 demands of local leaders to push back on displacement and gentrification in Charlotte. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

A grassroots coalition of Charlotte-area community organizations, nonprofits, and residents held a virtual press conference Thursday to present its new “Housing Resolution,” a document that lays out the group’s platform, including goals, policies and demands of city leaders all built upon one driving principle: housing as a human right.

The Housing Justice Coalition CLT’s new Housing Resolution calls for specific actions in three focus areas: tenants’ rights, gentrification and displacement, and development policy/community benefits. 

The five-page document makes 31 demands of local leaders, mostly directed at elected officials at the city and county level. 

“A lot of the decision-making around housing that directly impacts residents in Mecklenburg County is done by local government,” said Ismaail Qaiyim, political education and policy co-chair with the Housing Justice Coalition. “Local government actors have significant power to enact policies and utilize decision-making towards the realization of housing as a human right.” 

The resolution calls for the city to create an office for tenant/renter assistance and counseling, for the county to expand tax relief plans for residents, and for both local bodies to establish a cap on campaign donations from developers, among other demands. 

On Thursday, Qaiyim pointed out that city and county leaders have in the past pushed for policies that contribute to displacement and gentrification in the Charlotte area. He drew parallels between the federally funded “urban renewal” policies that led to the destruction of historically Black neighborhoods like Brooklyn in the 1960s to recent developments along the Blue Line that have been subsidized and incentivized by city and county leaders. 

He called on city leaders to do everything they can to curb the displacement that’s come from a mix of new developments and the buying up of existing homes by corporations. 

“Charlotte is an unaffordable city with rents and property taxes that are ever-increasing and outpacing wages for a majority of citizens, and corporations have purchased more than 40,000 homes in the Charlotte-Metropolitan area. They’ve consolidated a large degree of the housing market for speculation and profit-making and this has driven up rents as well,” Qaiyim said.

“Charlotte’s historically African-American neighborhoods and working-class neighborhoods are vanishing as a result of the displacement and gentrification, and local decision-making has directly contributed.” 

A comprehensive plan for the UDO

Members of the Housing Justice Coalition CLT created and voted to approve the newly announced Housing Resolution during an assembly on April 30, presenting it on Thursday in the lead-up to a local candidates’ forum scheduled for Wednesday, July 13. 

Qaiyim emphasized on Thursday, however, that the resolution is a working document and will change as the coalition continues to bring on new partners who can provide fresh feedback. 

“We are building partnerships with organized labor, neighborhood groups, and faith communities because this is an issue that truly impacts everybody across the city,” Qaiyim said. 

gentrification in Charlotte
Ismaail Qaiyim, founder and principal attorney at Queen City Community Law Firm and political education and policy co-chair with Housing Justice Coalition CLT.

According to Qaiyim, much of the resolution was created on the foundation of knowledge that coalition organizers accumulated while lobbying for aspects of the city’s Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan, adopted by Charlotte City Council in June 2021.  

Working closely with the Charlotte Community Benefits Coalition, the Housing Justice Coalition and its partners successfully lobbied city staff to include language around community benefits and anti-displacement, including the creation of stakeholder groups such as the Charlotte NEST and Equitable Development commissions. 

Now as the city moves toward adopting a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that will codify many of the goals of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the Housing Justice Coalition wants more concrete assurances that the city will push back against the unfettered development that has been actively displacing people in Black and working-class neighborhoods, said Qaiyim. 

For example, one demand in the resolution states that, “The City shall require any development project that receives public funding to provide a minimum of 20% affordable housing as a contractual obligation for receiving public funds.”

While much of the discussion around the UDO has revolved around the potential that the city will do away with single-family-only zoning, allowing for duplexes, triplexes and sometimes quad-plexes in areas currently zoned solely for single-family homes, Qaiyim said the Housing Justice Coalition is less focused on housing density and more concerned with curbing the impacts of said density. 

“When you look at the things causing displacement in the city, really it has to do with uncontained and unrestrained market forces and investment blowing into areas that haven’t seen investment in a very long time,” he said, specifically pointing to development in east, north, west and southwest Charlotte, known together as the Crescent

Charlotte Comprehensive Plan
Duplexes and triplexes like these, located in the plaza Shamrock neighborhood, will be allowed in neighborhoods currently zoned solely for single-family homes if the UDO is passed as is. (Photo by Ryan PItkin)

“So even if you increase the housing stock,” he continued, “the problem is that the entities that are building the housing stock are building toward the highest market value because it’s driven toward maximizing profit. And as long as that is the case … the primary thing is putting some tools in place to help neighborhoods that haven’t seen that investment really be preserved in some way shape or form.”

Along with the call for a 20-percent-minimum affordable-housing mandate for publicly funded developments, the resolution also calls for the city to pass a Community Benefits Ordinance that mandates community benefits for projects that receive public incentives, and to create a comprehensive impact assessment for all development projects that receive at least $10 million in public funding. 

Community benefits over feedback

Qaiyim acknowledged that the UDO will all but do away with some of the conditional rezoning policies that currently allow neighbors to give feedback on developments planned for their neighborhoods, but said those have largely been ignored when it comes to developments in the Crescent. 

He hopes new policies can put an emphasis on ensuring communities benefit rather than simply hearing neighbors’ concerns. 

“Conditional rezonings will disappear,” he said, “However, the neighborhoods that have been able to use those rezonings have been the neighborhoods in the Wedge, historically — neighborhoods that have been more organized, that have more access to resources and are just politically connected for historic reasons. 

“So what we really want to do is try to build a citywide coalition for neighborhoods that maybe don’t have that access, for individuals who are not part of an organization that can advocate for policies, and can bring about a much more equitable distribution of resources and give people a voice when it comes to decision-making around zoning.” 

And to make that happen, it all starts with locally elected leaders, Qaiyim said. 

“Our push is to get some movement and change the way that decisions are made and also the way in which public-private partnerships happen to ensure that the public has some direct benefit therein,” he said. “The local government actors, particularly in the city and county, have significant power to do more than what they’re doing.” 

The Housing Justice Coalition will hold a local candidates forum on Wednesday, July 13 at 6:30 p.m. You can attend on Zoom using this link. The Housing Justice Coalition meets on the last Wednesday of each month. You can get involved by emailing them at housingjusticeclt@gmail.com and/or following their Instagram page.


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