Brookhill Village – An Alternative Perspective (by P. Kelly)
Much has been recently been written regarding the announced multi-family development project in Brookhill Village. Let us take a step back to review the History of Brookhill.
Brookhill originally contained over 700 affordable apartments for African American only residents that were originally constructed in 1951. Today the number of habitable units is approximately 160 units. The drastic drop is due to the lack of reinvestment and maintenance by the landlords since construction in the 1950’s. This practice has continued over the last 14 years of local ownership which also included only offering weekly rents. The Southend location of the Brookhill a historically African American community highlights the racial income/wealth divide in Charlotte. We as a community have an obligation to find a positive future for the 36+ acres in the Brookhill Neighborhood to create a Great Affordable Housing Project.
First, we would like to offer a broader perspective of determining ‘What constitutes a Great Affordable Housing Project’ in mitigating the Affordable Housing Crisis.
· We should measure success for a project based upon the original capacity of the property.
Original Brookhill had over 700 affordable apts.
Proposed New Brookhill only 160 affordable apts.
· We should look at the utilization of the total property of 36+ Acres not just the redeveloped portion for affordable housing
Original Brookhill utilized all 36+ acres for affordable housing
New Brookhill only utilizes 16+ Acres for Affordable Housing –
The Developer plans to request rezoning of the remaining 20+ acres to Commercial for profitable developments.
· We should look at what are the alternative uses of the property if this development does not occur.
The 36+ acre site has an extremely limited market value due the underlying land ownership issues with the current zoning of MF. The developer would not be able to develop market rate apartments on the property given the land ownership issues.
The New Brookhill Project is proposing
· 324 apartments developed over 16+ acres.
Only 160 of the apartments will be affordable
Only 65 apartments will be affordable at 30% AMI (current residents (150+) at 30% AMI)
· The developer is proposing requesting rezoning the remaining 20+ acres to commercial development to gain significant profits from the remaining land while not contributing to the New Brookhill funding. (Commerical Development A, B, C, D, E, F in the map below)
Requiring a $20 million public/philanthropic investment
$4.5 million Housing Trust Fund (HTF) investment
$5.5 million Infrastructure (Road work primarily benefiting the commercial development)
$10 million from the Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund (CHOIF)
· Charging the project $4 million for the 16+ acres when they acquired the 36+ acres for $780,000 in 2019.
Furthermore, the New Brookhill Project does not compare favorably to the other HTF project requests that will be voted on by City Council on Monday, April 27th:
· Almost 3 Times the Avg. Subsidy Amount per 30% AMI Apartment of all other HTF 2020 Requests.
Avg. HTF Deal Request (4% & 9%) $ 99,749
New Brookhill Project $ Total subsidy $305,154
Bottom line is if City Council approves the Brookhill deal as proposed
We are spending over $300,000 / unit for the 30% AMI units.
We could build 3 times as many 30% AMI units elsewhere in the community
We would propose that there are much better community solutions that could be achieved that are much closer to the historical purpose of the Brooklyn Village property.
What if the City purchased the land lease back from the developer? They reportedly only paid $792,000 for the lease in December 2019 which is much less than the $20 million needed to finance the project.
What if the City then solicited bids for creative housing solutions that leveraged all the 36+ acres?
The neighborhood could be used as an ‘experiment’ in constructing various sizes of housing (potentially including tiny homes, modular homes) that would provide a greater number of affordable homes closer to the original 700 units at a cost / unit much less than $300,000.
In addition, the proximity of the Inlivian’s Southside Homes development would suggest a county regional community services center could also be a good use of a small portion of the property.
If the proposals included a small commercial component allocated for Minority Owned businesses to make it a thriving Community serving the residents.
We cannot forget that we collectively created the situation of affordable housing, wealth and income disparity and resulting limited upward mobility. We (Elected officials and residents) must raise our standards and manage our limited resources to meet the needs of the Community. Failure to do so will severely limit our progress in resolving the housing crisis.