Affordable housing in west Charlotte was at risk. Now a land trust will save 32 homes

The West Side Community Land Trust received $6 million to secure its largest acquisition to date, adding 32 properties to its portfolio of lasting affordable homes, the nonprofit announced Tuesday.

Mecklenburg County commissioners earlier this year approved using American Rescue Plan Act money to acquire the homes in the Hoskins Road community in northwest Charlotte. Other donors, including Charlotte’s Fifth Third Bank who gave the largest private donation, round out the public-private partnership.

The homes, including many that need extensive repairs, are occupied by some 28 families — but as renters. About a year ago, residents worried when they learned the then-owner was thinking of selling them. So they reached out to the land trust for help.

“They felt a great sense of fear when they found out,” Charis Blackmon, who heads the land trust, told the Charlotte Observer. “They felt like ... somebody was going to come in and purchase, demolish and build something else,” and be displaced.

Working with the county, the West Charlotte nonprofit was scheduled to host an event Tuesday evening including a block party at the Hoskins Avenue Baptist Church, in the Thomasboro-Hoskins neighborhood, to celebrate the sale.

“This pivotal partnership results in a powerful outcome,” Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said in a release. “The Hoskins Road community will be revitalized by this development.”

Beverly Knox Davis, who heads the Historic Hoskins Coalition, has been working with West Side Community Land Trust toward the acquisition. She learned about a year ago that a landlord owned multiple properties in the Hoskins Road community — something she found very disturbing.

She and Rickey Hall of the West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition met with the landlord and suggested he sell to the West Charlotte nonprofit, Davis said.

Davis, 54, who grew up in the community, has helped residents for 16 years. She didn’t realize some families were going home to what she described as “deplorable conditions.”

The situation makes her sad, she said.

“To know that the people that we’ve been serving, some of these families have just been going back home to just awfulness and not saying a word for fear that they will become homeless,” Davis said. “It’s a step in the right direction. I’m excited about this afternoon. It’s a small step.”

The land trust will begin repairing the homes and get families on a path toward ownership. Renovations could take as long as two years, Blackmon said. The land trust has to carve out a repairs budget, with estimates that could run several million dollars.

The goal is to keep the homes permanently affordable for current residents and generations to come.

It’s not just about affordable housing even though that is important, Blackmon said.

“It’s about people power, it’s about the power of individuals to be able to stay in their communities, it’s about the power of residents to determine their own fate,” she said. “It’s about the power of individuals to say we are not settling for the status quo.”