CHARLOTTE (June 14, 2022) – In just three years after its launch, the Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund (CHOIF) created or preserved 1,047 housing units for working families – and has demonstrated the value of investing in areas of opportunity, according to a new report from Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), which manages the fund.
In response to Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis, a unique partnership of public and private leaders came together in 2019 to create the CHOIF, raising $53 million in private capital, and effectively doubling the City of Charlotte’s investment in affordable housing.
The CHOIF has invested in nine projects to date leading to approximately $167 million in total development – with 93% of housing units reserved for households earning 80% or less of Charlotte’s Area Median Income (AMI), and 25% affordable for those making 30% of AMI or less.
“The impact of the CHOIF in our community has not only been to provide homes for people working in our essential services and struggling to pay rising rents, it also has proven that affordable housing is a good investment for public and private dollars,” said Ralphine Caldwell, Executive Director of LISC Charlotte.
Conceptualized by the Foundation For The Carolinas and designed by LISC, the CHOIF’s primary goal is to increase access to quality, affordable housing in areas of opportunity by investing private capital to develop new or preserve existing affordable housing. Affordable housing improves the lives of residents and can lead to home ownership and economic advancement.
“At its core, affordable housing sparks economic growth for middle- and low-income residents where rents are exponentially rising,” said George Ashton, President of LISC Fund Management. “The success of the CHOIF offers a model we can replicate and scale to continue the work of delivering more equitable and affordable housing in areas of opportunity.”
According to the LISC report, the CHOIF was fully allocated three years ahead of its goal, including capital allocations slated to reach 1,500 units, pending future closings. The robust adoption of the funding model by developers and partners– and the spiking need for affordable housing – illuminates the necessity to continue the initiative with a second private investment fund, the report said.
The LISC report details insights from the CHOIF initiative, offers snapshots of its housing developments, includes perspective from investors and developers, and tells the stories of residents benefitting from the CHOIF. One resident, whose $800 monthly income wouldn’t cover market rent for her family, found a home in Shamrock Gardens: “It’s so nice to live in a place where you walk outside and people wave to you,” she said in the report. “I love my neighbors. We look out for each other and help when we’re needed.”
View the full report as a flip book:
While the CHOIF represents private investment, its success also rests in its ability to leverage additional funding from the City of Charlotte’s Housing Trust Fund. Streamlined access to capital from both vehicles through one entry point can be transformative for developers. Partnerships with public, private and nonprofit organizations also make the CHOIF appealing.
The CHOIF made it possible for Charlotte-based developer Laurel Street to develop Varick on 7th, President and CEO Dionne Nelson said of the company’s mid-rise apartment building which reserves half of its units for households earning less than 80% of AMI, with the other half available at market rates.
The CHOIF’s partnership with INVLIVIAN has also helped change the affordable housing narrative. “The CHOIF provides access to capital that creates housing and INLIVIAN provides vouchers that help sustain it”, said Fulton Meachem, President and CEO of INLIVIAN. INLIVIAN’s housing vouchers deliver a steady stream of income to landlords who agree to renovate, build or set aside a portion of their housing for low-income families.
In recent years, after a Harvard study ranked Charlotte last among 50 large cities in economic mobility, leaders from public, private and nonprofit organizations came together to address the issues holding people back. Chief among them was Charlotte’s severe lack of affordable housing. In 2017, voters approved $50 million in bonds for affordable housing, and in 2019 CHOIF was born to work in collaboration with the city and other entities.
By investing in affordable housing in areas of opportunity, the LISC report says, the CHOIF is breaking down the segregation of housing that is so tightly correlated with access to transportation, education, and healthcare – measures that help improve economic mobility.
But much more is needed, the report says.
In January, a Mecklenburg County study found that only 1% of apartment rents were under $1,000, and the average one-bedroom rents for $1,288. The salary needed to rent an apartment in Mecklenburg County is about $56,268, the study said, yet the report notes the median salary for an elementary school teacher is $45,860; a firefighter, $32,590; and a hotel desk clerk, bartender or maid, $21,000.
The county also identified a gap of 23,022 housing units for households making 30% of the Area Median Income.
“The CHOIF has created a proof of concept, has demonstrated speed in achieving visible progress across the landscape of Charlotte, and has created a strategy for going forward with even greater success…” the report said. “Ultimately, increasing the quantity and quality of stable housing for families in Charlotte will aid in propelling economic mobility forward.”
About LISC Charlotte
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is a 40-year Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) committed to comprehensive community development, including investing capital and resources into small businesses, economic development, affordable housing, health & safety, sports & recreation, and education, as well as building the capacity of non-profit partners. LISC Charlotte supports affordable housing and economic development in Charlotte and its target neighborhood, Historic West End, with a focus on catalyzing economic opportunity while also protecting long-time residents from displacement. Since opening its office in March 2019, LISC Charlotte has invested over $60M in Charlotte in partnership with the city, philanthropic leaders, corporations, community residents and organizations.
Learn more at lisc.org/charlotte
About the Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund (CHOIF)
The Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund (CHOIF) is a mission-driven private investment fund committed to increasing the availability of and access to quality affordable housing in areas of opportunity. The CHOIF leverages the City of Charlotte’s Housing Trust Fund and works in tandem with other project-based vouchers, low-cost debt and land donations that have been contributed for affordable housing. The CHOIF was created in partnership with the Foundation For the Carolinas and is managed by LISC Charlotte and LISC Fund Management, LLC, an affiliate of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
Learn more at liscstrategicinvestments.org/choif