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Charlotte’s Catholic diocese opens low income-housing for disabled

Charlotte’s Catholic diocese opens low income-housing for disabled

The first section of a planned 20-acre, 253-apartment community for low-income elderly and disabled people opened Tuesday in the Steele Creek area of south Charlotte. Phase One of Mother Teresa Villa, a 13-unit building, is already at capacity, wi By

The first section of a planned 20-acre, 253-apartment community for low-income elderly and disabled people opened Tuesday in the Steele Creek area of south Charlotte.

Phase One of Mother Teresa Villa, a 13-unit building, is already at capacity, with a waiting list of about 45 people, officials said.

Organizers say the growing waiting list underscores a tremendous need in the community for affordable housing at a time when developers are snapping up low-cost apartment sites to renovate into market-rate housing.

Jerry Widelski, head of the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte Housing Corp., said it’s unclear when his organization will start the next phase of Mother Teresa Villa. Funding is the biggest challenge, he said. The completed project will include a chapel, gardens, open space and outdoor activity space.

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Cost of the 13-unit Phase One was $2 million, supplied by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with an additional $900,000 provided by the Diocese of Charlotte for site preparation. The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency and the city’s Housing Trust Fund also contributed more than $200,000 each to the project.

There is a tremendous need for this kind of housing, particularly now that so much of the affordable housing in the community is disappearing.

Jeanne Pritt of InReach

Tenants of Mother Teresa Villa will pay 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent, and the federal government will subsidize the rest, officials said.

The 20 acres, about a half-mile south of South Tryon Street and Carowinds Boulevard, has been owned by the diocese for 20 years and was once considered a prime spot to put a new parish, Widelski said. The diocese is partnering on the project with the nonprofit InReach, which will manage Mother Teresa Villa. An InReach staff member will live in the new 13-unit building, officials said.

Phase One of the project was reserved for people with intellectual or physical disabilities. Among the tenants who have already moved in are people with autism and cerebral palsy, said Jeanne Pritt of InReach.

“Some are moving out of their parents’ home, while others are moving out of other housing that was no longer affordable,” Pritt said. “There is a tremendous need for this kind of housing, particularly now that so much of the affordable housing in the community is disappearing.”

It’s estimated the city will need 40,000 affordable housing units by 2050, but few such sites are currently on the planning board. In fact, most nonprofits are creating programs that help place homeless and low-income people in existing apartments, with rental subsidies. However, leaders of those programs say they are finding fewer affordable options.

David Hains, a spokesman for the Diocese of Charlotte, said Catholics in the community see Mother Teresa Villas being as being in keeping with the message of Pope Francis: “It’s an example of works of mercy,” Hains said. “Pope Francis has spoken repeatedly about works of mercy. It’s the defining call of his papacy.”

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