Editor’s note: This was last updated following City Council’s vote on the 2040 plan on June 21, 2021.
After months of debate, Charlotte City Council voted on Monday to approve the 2040 plan, a document that outlines a vision for the city’s growth over the next two decades.
Why it matters: Charlotte is now the 15th largest city in the country, and one of the most rapidly-growing. The city is expected to add more than 385,000 residents by 2040 — and that presents issues in areas like housing and infrastructure.
What’s happening: The 2040 plan outlines a series of goals and strategies to tackle those challenges, and aims to spread the benefits of growth more equitably. But it was met with resistance from developers and some neighborhood groups.
- The plan passed with a slim 6-5 margin.
Here are five things to know about what’s in the document that will shape how Charlotte develops:
1. Single-family zoning changes
The most controversial piece of the 2040 plan is a provision that would allow duplexes and triplexes in “Place Types” where single-family housing is allowed. A place type, similar to a zoning district, will guide land use in a particular area.
- The goal is to encourage housing that is more affordable than a traditional single-family home.
- But opponents say they are concerned about the additional density, and others worry it could accelerate gentrification.
The big picture: It’s unclear how widespread the impacts of such a policy would be. An analysis from Axios Twin Cities found that in Minneapolis, which was the first major city in the U.S. to make such a change to its zoning, just 16 new duplexes and four triplexes were built in the first full year the rules were in effect.
[Related Axios story: My four years living in a Charlotte four-plex]
2. 10-minute neighborhoods
One of the plan’s goals is to ensure that all Charlotte households have access to amenities like fresh food, health care services and public spaces within a 10-minute walk, bike ride or transit trip.
- In order to achieve that goal, the plan suggests encouraging higher-density, mixed-use development near transit stations, and providing incentives to developers if they provide needed amenities such as open space.
Yes, but: This goal has also been met with pushback, including from developers, who say it is unattainable, and that tenants in development projects are driven by market forces.
The plan outlines a number of strategies to combat the rapid displacement in Charlotte’s neighborhoods caused by a flood of new investment that is raising land values.
If the plan is adopted, the city says it will:
- Establish an anti-displacement commission that includes neighborhood leaders, housing advocates, community organizers, developers and residents threatened by displacement. That group will be charged with creating an anti-displacement study.
- Develop an anti-displacement strategy: Some of the tools that could be used to fight displacement include acquiring land, tax and foreclosure assistance and grants/loans to help homeowners and landlords improve existing affordable housing.
4. Community benefits
Community benefits agreements, or contracts between developers and neighborhoods, have been another flashpoint between developers, the city and neighborhood advocates.
How it works: The agreements are designed to give communities needed amenities in a development project, such as a childcare facility or grocery store.
- Housing and neighborhood advocates argue that the agreements help ensure communities benefit from the development that occurs around them.
- But the real estate industry has said they could discourage developers from building in Charlotte, and have questioned their legality. The plan does not mandate the agreements, but it says the city will explore their use.
Meanwhile, the plan calls for requiring developers to provide “benefits to the community” like public space in order to build taller buildings in some place types.
- Previous versions of the plan also required community benefits for buildings above 30 stories uptown. But that was removed after developers and some council members expressed concern that it could discourage density.
5. Affordable housing
The plan offers several ideas for combatting the deficit of tens of thousands of affordable housing units in Charlotte.
- The city wants to investigate new regulations or incentives for affordable housing, but some of them may require changes to state law. The plan suggests Charlotte lead the charge in advocating that the state allow cities to mandate affordable housing in new development.
- The plan also recommends the city look at increasing the amount of money sought for the Housing Trust Fund bond in future elections.
- The city wants to look at establishing a fund to acquire land near transit stations, a strategy known as land banking. That land could eventually be used for affordable housing.