Since its release late last year, the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan has been scrutinized by elected officials and residents alike. The purpose, as laid out by the 320-page plan’s authors, is “to address the inequities of the past, and unite the community behind a shared set of goals for our future.”
Arriving at that shared set of goals has proven more difficult than expected. City Council was initially scheduled to vote on the plan in April but after the formal presentation by assistant city manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba on March 1 and the sometimes-contentious discussions that followed, Council members asked for more time. Mayor Vi Lyles delayed the vote but made it clear the issue must be resolved by the end of the city’s fiscal year on June 30, 2021.
The full 2040 Comprehensive Plan lists ten goals, such as safe and equitable mobility, integrated natural and built environments, and fiscal responsibility. But it is Goal 2 – Neighborhood Diversity and Inclusion – that has sparked the most controversy.
Policy 2.1 aims to increase housing diversity throughout the city by allowing more housing types in traditionally single-family areas. According to proponents of the plan, enabling middle-density housing options such as duplexes, triplexes, and quadruplexes to coexist with single-family homes carries many benefits, including helping to desegregate the city. Opponents worry the increased density will overwhelm existing infrastructure and cause other unintended problems.
In a recent non-binding preliminary vote, City Council voted 8-3 to keep the 2040 Plan as written, including eliminating single-family zoning. But because the final vote is not scheduled until June 21, the issue is not yet formally settled.
Neighbors for More Neighbors CLT is a coalition of organizations and individuals that supports the adoption of the Charlotte Future 2040 Plan in its current form. They say the plan “acknowledges and addresses the enduring legacy of segregation in our city, and creates a roadmap to ensure that all residents of Charlotte . . . have equitable access to the benefits of our city’s growth.”
Many of the families served at Crisis Assistance Ministry have been affected by the city’s history of redlining, urban renewal, and gentrification. Supporters of the 2040 Plan say taking a proactive approach to reverse the effects of exclusionary zoning practices is vital for providing historically-excluded community members with greater economic opportunities. The change in zoning would benefit Charlotte’s most vulnerable residents in the following ways:
- Multi-family homes are often less expensive and therefore more within the financial means of families who have traditionally been priced out of homeownership. Since owning a home is the primary wealth-building investment for most Americans, this is an important opportunity for low- and moderate-income families, who are disproportionately people of color, to create wealth.
- Current zoning regulations limit the housing supply and therefore drive up prices, putting renters at higher risk of homelessness. Increasing the housing supply by allowing more units per lot will reduce the rapidly-growing problem of displacement of lower-income residents across the city.
- Having a mix of single-family and multi-family units within a community will contribute to more diverse neighborhoods. Rather than areas segregated by socioeconomic factors, the plan will allow access to desirable neighborhoods for families previously priced out.
It is important to note that the 2040 Plan does not ban or eliminate single-family housing but instead allows for housing options to meet the needs of a wide range of Charlotte residents. Those options will be increasingly vital, as another 385,000 people are expected to call the Queen City home over the next twenty years.