NoDa Charlotte, NC, USA

The 2022 midterm local elections are coming up, and the Rental Housing Alliance Political Action Committee is representing the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association (GCAA) in hopes of influencing voters to elect a candidate that shares their values.

As defined by Open Secrets, a Political Action Committee (PAC) is a term used to describe a political committee organized to raise and spend money on elections. Most PACs represent a business, ideological or labor interest.

Though there have been multiple attempts to create affordable housing, many low-income households in Charlotte pay more than they can afford. In an interview with WCNC, Lisa Taylor, the Rental Housing Alliance PAC Board Chair, explained that only 1% of apartments are priced under $1,000 in Mecklenburg County.

According to the Charlotte Observer, the Rental Housing Alliance PAC in Charlotte filed with the board of elections in January 2019. They have raised more than $86,000 but haven't spent it on elections yet because they haven't come out in support of a particular candidate. However, they do have an agenda.

According to the GCAA, "Our focus is on a broad range of multifamily apartment government affairs issues, including valet waste regulation, landlord-tenant issues, affordable housing and more." Costly rental regulations hinder the growth of affordable housing. Taylor further explained that "The building code requirements and regulations account for nearly a third of the costs covered in someone's monthly rent." Eliminating these costs can slow down extreme variables that contribute to poverty in Charlotte, such as homelessness.

The Rental Housing Alliance PAC is crucial for this upcoming election as they seek to find a candidate that will support their initiatives for affordable housing. Charlotte is currently overdeveloping with rental properties and new locations for financial industries. This crowding leads to gentrification, which forces low-income residents out of their housing. The Charlotte Observer found that several areas near Charlotte's light rail, where there has been an increase in development, simultaneously led to a larger decline of Black, low-income residents. Crowding and gentrification are deep-rooted issues in Charlotte that are too difficult to undo immediately. That is why, by starting with cutting arbitrary regulation costs, we can lower rental costs and mitigate residents from having to leave what was once their affordable housing.

An example of development causing gentrification is the predominantly Black neighborhood, Hidden Valley, located northeast of uptown. The residents are concerned that newer apartment buildings and townhouses will change the character of the neighborhood and push out older Black residents. According to a documentary made by Barbara Pinson Lash, a researcher at UNC Charlotte's Charlotte Research Project: before the 1970s, Hidden Valley was a predominantly white neighborhood. During the 1960s and 70s, many Black residents began to move after being displaced from other areas in the city, and many came after the dissolvent of the Brooklyn neighborhood.

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Saundra Jackson, a resident of Hidden Valley, stated that when she first moved to the area, it was very small and peaceful. One of Jackson's main concerns is that as businesses have moved out of places like the ones at Tryon Mall, not much has been done to replace them. She also mentioned that along Sugar Creek, what was once woods are now motels and fast-food restaurants, but not the kinds of businesses that supported the quality of life people of Hidden Valley enjoy. She also stated that the traffic brought by the new towering apartments is threatening the community's character, the one that she and other residents have fought to protect throughout the years.

Hidden Valley is currently in a legal battle against the redistricting of its neighborhood. The residents of Hidden Valley believe that the redistricting of their neighborhood is a misstep and that it comes after years of attempting to change the idea that their neighborhood is dangerous or that it can be transformed without their consent. Residents have stated that they feel defenseless and that their voices don't matter. They want a group of elected leaders who will work against their neighborhood's transformation with their consent and someone who will listen to them.

The North Carolina primaries, which were supposed to be in March, have now been rescheduled to May due to a legal dispute over the gerrymandered election map. Once the election map is approved, the Rental Housing Alliance PAC can finally find a candidate in the various districts that will support their goals.

This is a step in the right direction for the city of Charlotte. The rates of gentrification, crowding and homelessness have been at an all-time high, especially because of the pandemic. Waiting longer to take action will continue to intensify the affordable housing crisis.

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