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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

How a Charlotte community fought to save affordable housing (and won)

When a Charlotte community learned that 32 homes were being sold by the same landlord, residents leapt into action to keep them affordable.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) — When Beverly Mackins learned earlier this year that her landlord was selling the house she’s rented for the last seven years in the Hoskins neighborhood, she naturally was worried.

The “first thought I had was ‘Lord, where am I going to move to?’” the Charlotte resident told Courthouse News during the second annual Historic Hoskins Parade and Festival this month. “It’s so hard out here now to get a place.”

Over the last three years or so, Mackins and others in Hoskins had noticed what they describe as some troubling trends in their community. Outside entities were buying up homes, renovating them and pricing out locals, residents and community leaders say.

But when Mackins’ house did sell, the sale turned out to be an opportunity for her. West Side Community Land Trust, an organization working to preserve affordable housing in the city, this year purchased 32 homes in Hoskins, including hers. The organization has pledged to keep the homes affordable, so Mackins will get to stay and the house will see much-needed renovations. 

Charlotte is often cited as one of America’s fastest-growing cities. Like in many cities across the country, all that growth has put a strain on housing stock, raising housing prices and leaving longtime residents worried about getting pushed out.

Those fears are particularly present in Hoskins, a former mill town and majority Black neighborhood near Uptown Charlotte. Between its central location and relatively high rates of poverty, Hoskins is uniquely vulnerable to gentrification. City data lists the two parcels that make up the Hoskins community as being vulnerable to displacement

Now, leaders in Charlotte hope community ownership will help slow displacement in this iconic neighborhood. This unique arrangement, announced in early September, will help keep those Hoskins homes permanently affordable, while also providing long-neglected renovations and a chance for tenants to purchase the homes themselves someday. 

The plan was made possible through a significant public investment. Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, transferred more than $6 million in federal pandemic relief money to the Land Trust — the Land Trust’s largest public gift to date. 

As other communities across the country grapple with gentrification, the events in Hoskins offer a blueprint for keeping longtime residents in place. Here, residents banded together to help keep people in their homes, finding innovative new ways to grapple with the specter of gentrification and a dearth of affordable housing.

It’s a happier story than the usual one about gentrification, in which rising property values lead to eviction and uprooted communities. The outcome is in large part thanks to Hoskins community leaders, who first raised the alarm about a single landlord who was preparing to sell dozens of properties in the neighborhood. 

Beverly Knox Davis, a community activist and founder of the Historic Hoskins Coalition, speaks to a crowd during a recent event in the Hoskins neighborhood of Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Beverly Knox Davis.

A concerned neighborhood

One of those who raised the alarm was Beverly Knox Davis. Founder and president of the local Historic Hoskins Coalition Group and the nonprofit Brighter Day Ministries, she has lived in the Hoskins neighborhood since she was 5 years old. 

Davis says Hoskins has always struggled to get the attention of city and county leaders. She’s experienced it herself as she’s tried to get basic services for the community. She says she has to make endless calls to accomplish even small tasks, from fixing a leak on the sidewalk to getting approval for a block party. 

Adding to the sense of neglect, many of the homes in Hoskins are in dire need of renovations. “Everything that I recall as a 5-year-old to now, it pretty much looks the same,” Davis, now 54, told Courthouse News in a phone interview this month.


Change is coming to Hoskins — but Davis fears it’s not the kind she’s been hoping for. On an app on her phone, she regularly checks to see new homes up for sale. Oftentimes, outside entities purchase homes and rebuild them into larger, more expensive homes that don’t match the rest of the community. 

She was particularly alarmed when, in September 2022, she learned that dozens of Hoskins rental homes, all owned by the same landlord, would soon be going on the market. The sale could have seen 32 households forced out of Hoskins, with fewer affordable options left in the neighborhood.

Housing shortages can contribute to higher housing costs — and Charlotte has seen both. Median home prices in Charlotte shot up from $273,500 in early 2020 to $420,000 in 2022, according to a report from the University of North Carolina. Median monthly rents increased 28% between 2011 and 2021 in Mecklenburg County, according to a county report this year.

Unsurprisingly in these conditions, affordable housing is becoming harder to find, too. According to that same county study, only 13% of the local housing stock is affordable to low-income homes, compared to 45% in 2011. 

Worried about large numbers of displaced Hoskins residents, Davis enlisted the help of community activist Rickey Hall, a co-founder of the West Side Community Land Trust. In October 2022, the two met with the landlord to express their concerns about the homes’ future affordability. (The landlord declined to comment for this story.)

Still, Davis said that after some negotiations, the landlord was willing to work with them. They brokered a deal that involved the West Side Community Land Trust, which aims to keep residents in the homes.

Founded by west Charlotte residents in 2016, the West Side Community Land Trust’s mission is to create permanently affordable housing in Charlotte. It’s particularly active in west Charlotte, where many communities considered vulnerable to displacement.

Like other land trusts across the country, the West Side Community Land Trust works to acquire affordable properties in order to take them off the market and preserve their affordability. It’s the only group of its kind in Charlotte, though the concept of land trusts is becoming more common across the country.

The West Side Community Land Trust had never taken on a project of this magnitude, with this many properties. Nonetheless, the effort fit the Land Trust’s goal of supporting community- and resident-led development efforts, said Charis Blackmon, executive director of the group.

It’s the first time the group has ever purchased a rental portfolio. With the county’s infusion of American Rescue Plan Act funding, it also involves the largest gift that the Land Trust has ever received.

For Blackmon, preserving existing housing is equally as important as finding ways to build new affordable housing, which entities like the city have been working to invest in. 

“The fact of the matter is, we’re not going to build our way out of this affordable housing deficit,” she said. Instead, she said, advocates in places like Charlotte need to leverage “housing stock that already exists by preserving what is already affordable.”

The West Side Community Land Trust had previously been denied funding through the American Rescue Plan Act for another affordable housing project. When it pitched the effort to include the Hoskins neighborhood, Mecklenburg County was willing to come on board. 

In the end, Mecklenburg gave the Land Trust a grant of $6.6 million — a significant investment for the group. Blackmon, director at the trust, hopes the county’s effort will open the door to more public funding for other affordable housing efforts.

For its part, the county says it’s committed to continuing to address housing insecurity through collaborations like this one. The county touts several ongoing affordable housing initiatives on everything from rent stabilization to housing development. 


There’s “no one-size-fits-all” solution to the housing crisis, County Manager Dena Diorio said in a statement to Courthouse News. “We are committed to addressing housing insecurity for our residents,” she stated. “The Hoskins Road initiative is a powerful example of collaboration and impact.”

The county’s $6 million investment in the project was somewhat unusual, said Lori Thomas, the executive director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute who studies homelessness and affordable housing. Historically, the city of Charlotte has instead taken the lead on investing in the so-called “sticks and bricks” of affordable housing, whereas the county typically leads on supportive and human services. 

Still, Thomas thinks this multi-pronged approach is necessary. Housing affordability has always been a challenge for Charlotte’s lowest earners — but as housing costs continue to rise, it feels like those pressures are starting to move up the income ladder.

"This is becoming such an important issue in Charlotte," Thomas said — adding that the county's investment shows a growing acknowledgement that "supportive services" alone can't fix the problem. Municipalities may be starting to see that they must work to "create and preserve affordable housing, because these other things really don't work without housing."

Residents of the Hoskins community of Charlotte gather beneath a tent to celebrate the sale of 32 homes that will be kept permanently affordable. Courtesty of Beverly Knox Davis

A new chapter for Hoskins residents

Fast forward to today, and the Land Trust now owns 32 Hoskins homes scattered throughout the Hoskins neighborhood. All of the homes will be renovated in a phased process over two years. 

Already, this process had uncovered some “deplorable” conditions in many of the 32 homes, said Davis, the local activist. Take Geri Cook, who works for Davis’ Brighter Day Ministries. Cook told Courthouse News that her Hoskins home of eight years has a rodent infestation, mold and other issues that had lingered under previous ownership. 

“There’s a whole lot of problems with most of the houses,” she said.

Davis said that many residents were afraid to speak up about the conditions of their homes, having heard horror stories from elsewhere in the neighborhood about tenants who made complaints and faced retaliation from landlords.

Some of the homes will need to be demolished and built from scratch, said Blackmon, the Land Trust director. Still, she says the group is committed to doing “what we say we’re going to do,” not only by keeping longtime residents in the neighborhood but by working with residents to make sure their own hopes for the community are realized. 

During renovations, displaced residents will be given temporary housing and entered into a program preparing them for home ownership. Long-term, the goal is to give residents the chance to purchase their homes. Those that don’t buy will still be able to rent.

For Davis, the effort is a sign of hope that — through the right collaborations — the neighborhood could improve without displacing longtime residents. “There can be improvements to where everybody is living wonderfully, she said. “Let’s not just mow over the rich heritage that’s there.”

As other homes continue to sell in Hoskins, Davis acknowledges it will take more than 32 homes to create an equitable future for the rapidly changing neighborhood.

“I still say that the danger point is still there,” she said.

Still, after the Land Trust deal, that dream now seems more attainable in Hoskins. The community celebrated the sale of the homes with a party at the Hoskins Avenue Baptist Church in early September. They gathered again at Eva B. Barber Park in October for the second annual Historic Hoskins Parade and Festival, a growing event that aims to celebrate the Hoskins community.

Attending the parade and festival was Mackins, the longtime Hoskins resident who not long ago feared the prospect of losing her place in the community. As music played over loudspeakers, she told Courthouse News she was anxious to see her home finally get the renovations it needed.

The kitchen floor, the window panes, the pipes are all in disrepair to be redone. “Everything [is], like, still from the time they built it,” she said. She never thought she’d see the day that her home would get the fixes that it needs — or that she’d ever get a real chance to own her house in the community. The extensive renovations would require Mackins to move into temporary housing, but “[I’m] praying to God I live to see it done and get back in there.”

Categories / Economy, Government, Homelessness

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