Last Monday, Charlotte Agenda reported that over 1,000 families gathered in the early morning cold to apply for a space in a new affordable apartment complex. In spite of the high number of people who gathered in hope of getting an affordable place to live, most of them had to be turned away as the Mezzanine at Freedom had only 129 units available for low-income residents. This event comes as the city of Charlotte trudges deeper into a housing crisis with no end in sight. Charlotte reported in June 2019 that the city has an estimated 24,000 unit deficit for housing below the median income level. This crisis reaches into the university area as well, with most on-campus housing costing far more than most off-campus apartment complexes. This divide in housing has the effect of pushing much of the low-income students to the far edges of the campus region, isolating them from resources that would be accessible if they were closer to campus. It is my opinion that as the crisis accelerates, the University has a moral obligation to address the housing dilemma.
As someone who has lived both on and off-campus, I can attest to the fact that the prices of off-campus apartments are much more affordable. When comparing the price of the cheapest on-campus housing, which is currently Sanford Hall, and the cheapest off-campus student housing, University Terrace, the difference in price is staggering. When broken down, UNC Charlotte Housing and Residence Life estimates that the cost to live in Sanford is $676 a month, compared to University Terrace which only costs an affordable $395 a month. University Terrace is a four bedroom and two bathroom apartment with a kitchen, living room and balcony or porch. In a growing university that is still trying to develop a campus culture, why would you not try and make the housing more affordable?
According to the city government of Charlotte, the United Nations recently projected that the Charlotte metropolitan region will be the fastest growing area in the United States through 2030. Charlotte's affordability crisis is far from over; however, in recent years the city has allocated greater assets toward combating this crisis. The city now offers down payment assistance and temporary rental assistance. This attempt to provide housing also applies to a lesser extent at UNC Charlotte where the University has numerous scholarships that one could use for housing. That being said, the only remarkable resource that UNC Charlotte provides is emergency temporary housing for students in crisis at thirty-five dollars. The problem that arises is that these resources are just the beginning of dealing with housing insecurities held by many students. It is my opinion that the most direct solution to the crisis is for the University to make its housing cost more competitive with housing around campus. Not only would this provide more for low income students in terms of accessibility to the resources of living on campus, but it would also further connect the University to the region around it. If UNC Charlotte is going to be North Carolina’s urban research university, then maybe it should realize that the problems of housing in the city are also the same problems of housing at the University.
The next decade will likely be one of the most dynamic in both UNC Charlotte and the city of Charlotte’s history. The issue of housing will likely continue to be the largest problem that the city and university will deal with. The city and university community sit at a crossroads in which the action taken now will affect the next generation of charlatans. The school’s moral responsibility is not only to its students but its community, making it imperative that unilateral action must be taken.