Sep 1, 2020 - News

In a ‘huge win’ for affordable housing, Roof Above buys a 341-unit apartment complex off Eastway Drive

HillRock Estates (courtesy of Roof Above

HillRock Estates (courtesy of Roof Above

In a significant move aimed at helping alleviate Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis, Roof Above has purchased a 341-unit apartment complex in east Charlotte. The local nonprofit plans to set aside 75 apartments for Charlotteans who are experiencing long-term homelessness.

Roof Above paid nearly $50 million for the 23-acre HillRock Estates apartment community off Eastway Drive. The nonprofit that formed when the Urban Ministry Center and Men’s Shelter of Charlotte merged last year, Roof Above provides services for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Move-ins will start this fall, says Roof Above CEO Liz Clasen-Kelly.

She believes the project will serve multiple community interests. For one, it helps prevent homelessness by providing an affordable housing option for low-income families. Additionally, it provides a direct solution for homelessness by offering permanent housing to individuals who currently do not have a home.

In the Charlotte area, there are currently 2,782 people experiencing homelessness. Of those, 446 individuals are considered chronically homeless.

“It’s a huge win for our community. What’s great is you don’t have to wait to build new,” Clasen-Kelly tells the Agenda. “We hope to move the needle a little bit on affordable housing.”

Roof Above’s project preserves a Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) site. NOAHs are unsubsidized rental properties typically built between 1940-1990.

That type of housing stock, which is much more affordable than building newer high-end apartments, is vanishing quickly around Charlotte — where luxury apartments in fast-growing neighborhoods like South End seem to pop up every month.

The Eastway corridor where HillRock sits is filled with NOAH properties. To execute the acquisition, Roof Above worked with Ascent Real Estate Capital, a local real estate company with NOAH preservation experience.

Currently, HillRocks rents one- and two-bedroom apartments from around $700 to $1,200. Roof Above’s project won’t displace current residents, Clasen-Kelly says. New tenants will move in over the next few years.

Through deed restrictions, Roof Above will ensure the HillRock apartments remain affordable for at least 27 years for low-income households, the organization said in a statement Tuesday.

This is the largest permanent housing solution Roof Above has done since Moore Place. Opened in 2012 in the Druid Hills area, Moore Place originally had space for 85 adults who were experiencing chronic homelessness. Now, it has space for 120.

Given the demand from local population growth, Charlotte has a shortage of about 34,000 affordable housing units, the city reported. The need is especially dire for households who make 30 percent or less of the area’s median income (AMI). That equals about $25,050 for a family of four. (Here’s the full 2020 AMI chart from the city.)

Roof Above is setting aside units based on income level. Here’s a breakdown of units by rent:

  • 96 units for households who make between 60 percent and 80 percent of AMI (between $50,100 and $66,800 for a family of four)
  • 160 units for those who make 60 percent of AMI and less
  • 10 units for those who make 30 percent of AMI and below, and rely on government vouchers or other forms of rental assistance
  • 75 units for individuals who are experiencing long-term homelessness

Roof Above’s deal is a public-private partnership, made possible by a combination of donations, loans, and grants.

  • Two Charlotte families separately and anonymously donated $2 million and $5 million for the project.
  • Roof Above received about $1 million in additional private donations.
  • In exchange for 50 units for its workers who meet the income qualifications, Atrium Health provided a low-interest $5 million loan for the project.
  • Additionally, the project is getting an investment from the Housing Trust Fund of $5.4 million.
HillRock Estates
HillRock Estates (courtesy of Roof Above)
HillRock Estates
HillRock Estates (courtesy of Roof Above)

“I’m so grateful for Charlotte’s collaborative nature and the different ways that partners can come together to achieve results,” Clasen-Kelly says.

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