Feb 19, 2021 - Real Estate

Prominent Charlotte artist on the edge of homelessness

alvin jacobs photographer

Screenshot: Video from Alvin C. Jacobs Jr.

How it happened: It just took a couple late payments for his freelance photography work, he tells me. Because of that, he paid his rent late for a couple months, and his landlord terminated his month-to-month lease.

Alvin Jacobs’ photography is in Uptown museums and in publications all over, including our own. But despite his established career, Jacobs tells me he’s experiencing something all too common: housing insecurity.

Why it matters: Homelessness has never been more visible in Charlotte with the emergence, and now dispersion, of “Tent City.” Housing insecurity, though, is harder to spot, but even more common with millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes.

  • Housing insecurity, simply put, is a lack of stability when it comes to shelter — from unaffordable rent to poor living conditions to homelessness.
  • A person earning minimum wage would need to work 113 hours a week to afford a 2-bedroom unit in Charlotte.

Jacobs tells me it’s easy to ignore the tents or the people standing at a street corner when you don’t know someone experiencing it first-hand. That’s why he decided to speak out in a video he released today.

“We don’t really understand … how individuals got there. Well, this is what it looks like,” he says.

He’s not being evicted so it doesn’t fall under the state’s moratorium, but he has to be out this week.

Jacobs isn’t sure where to go yet. He’s tried securing a lease at one of the few apartment complexes that advertise an artist residency program, but even those complexes require an additional month’s rent and proof of regular income.

“We’re a city set up for banker bros,” he says. “This is a city set up for everything to be on paper.”

Everything isn’t on paper for artists, Jacobs says. They work assignment to assignment, photo to photo, mural to mural.

Charlotte’s average rent now exceeds $1,200, making it harder for artists and other contractors working in the gig economy to find someplace stable to live.

“Where can you go and work in a safe environment that is conducive to creativity and art and all of these great things the city claims to love?” he says.

What’s next: Jacobs tells me he didn’t share the video for his own sake. He has a few options and a little bit of savings to get a new apartment.

He shared it so others can see a face to Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis. He hopes it inspires more empathy in the city to see how easily someone can become home insecure.

“If this can happen to a celebrated artist,” he says in the video, “what happens to individuals that (have) less?”


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