Feb 5, 2024 - Development

Charlotte may require single-family homes under potential development rule change

House under construction

Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

Charlotte leaders have resurfaced their debate of the city's controversial zoning policy that allows for denser housing to be built in single-family neighborhoods.

  • On Monday, council discussed potential changes to the Unified Development Ordinance. One of these would require single-family houses to be built in triplex or duplex projects that are larger than 5 acres.
  • The thinking behind the possible change: By requiring the inclusion of single-family homes, new triplex and duplex subdivisions would be less dense.

Why it matters: When Charlotte City Council adopted its 2040 plan, one of its goals was to promote the construction of "middle housing" — think townhomes, duplexes and triplexes.

  • For the past few decades, Charlotte has mainly only seen apartments or single-family homes built, says city planning director Alyson Craig. It left a gap in more affordable middle housing.

Yes, but: The sitting council only includes two members — Dimple Ajmera and Malcolm Graham — who were both in office and voted in favor of the 2040 plan in 2021. Two of the plan's staunchest proponents — council member Braxton Winston and planning director Taiwo Jaiyeoba — are no longer with the city.

  • The new UDO, which was subsequently adopted in 2022, loosened regulations so builders could put duplexes and triplexes in traditionally single-family neighborhoods.
  • Since then, residents have voiced concerns about proposed high-density development affecting their neighborhoods' characters. Original opponents now want to revise the UDO.

Go deeper: 3 recent times Charlotte backpedaled on its big-city ambitions

Zoom in: Other potential changes to the development guidelines could include limiting 5-plus-acre middle housing developments to areas that are "targeted for growth."

  • Council member Marjorie Molina called this "dangerous." She said they were potentially isolating underserved communities.
  • The city could also tweak standards related to building height, buffers and open space for triplex and duplex subdivisions.

What they're saying: Several council members indicated the suggested revisions didn't go far enough to protect existing neighborhoods because it only concerned projects over 5 acres.

  • "When we start dealing with 5 acres or less, you're really cutting the bones of the integrity of what we voted for. And I don't wanna start over," Graham said.
  • In retort, council member Ed Driggs recalled how nearly half the members were against the UDO because issues were unresolved. "We're dealing with them now," he added.

What's next: An advisory committee will go over the proposed changes to the UDO. A process to amend the UDO text could start as soon as April or May.

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