Raising Hammers to Raise Homes: County Joins Carter Work Project & Habitat for Humanity to Create Affordable Housing
About 100 Mecklenburg County employees, including members of the Board of County Commissioners, joined Habitat for Humanity and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project this week to build dozens of affordable homes for residents. The homes are being constructed as part of a 39-home development called the Meadows at Plato Price, off Morris Field Drive in west Charlotte.
Mecklenburg County is a platinum sponsor of the project, infusing $500,000 that funds the construction directly. This commitment addresses the Board of County Commissioners’ housing insecurity priority, which aims to reduce the number of residents experiencing homelessness and advance stable affordable housing options for all residents.
The Meadows at Plato Price neighborhood is named after the Plato Price School, once located in a historic, previously-thriving African American neighborhood in west Charlotte. Plato Price School closed in the 1960s when desegregation took hold, and the land lay vacant until the City of Charlotte donated it to Habitat for Humanity in 2019.
“We have a team from Mecklenburg County building on this particular site. We’ve had an opportunity to engage one another and get to know one another, and work on a worthy cause,” said George Dunlap, chair of the Board of County Commissioners. “The homeowners have skin in the game. They get to be part of the build. They can take pride in the fact that they can share it with their children. The neighbors are getting to know one another during the construction of their homes, and hopefully that will build relationships in the community.”
It was a star-studded effort to raise walls and build rafters. In addition to County commissioners and staff, hundreds of community volunteers, and the eventual homeowners, country music superstars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood came to town for a week of hammering. Habitat for Humanity broke ground on the project in September 2021, with this group focusing on the construction of 23 new single-family homes between Oct. 2 – 6, 2023. The entire 39-home project is expected to be completed by early 2025.
“I think it’s so important that we’re building not just a house, but a home for a family,” said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Laura Meier. “It feels so good to be driving in these nails, hundreds and hundreds of nails, for somebody who’s going to live here. It’s really special.”
Jeremy Hester is a volunteer — and homeowner. He will eventually own the three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom house that he helped build. Hester says he’s looking forward to moving from his current rental apartment.
“I wasn’t even looking because I didn’t think I could afford it. When I heard about Habitat, it got me excited and made me think I could own my own home,” said Hester. “I like being a part of it — seeing it built from the ground up. I came by and saw the concrete poured, and now we have walls up.”
Addressing Housing Insecurity
Charlotte-Mecklenburg is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, with an estimated 55,000 residents who do not have an affordable place to live. Many factors contribute to these issues. Between 2006 and 2011, median monthly rent adjusted for inflation increased by 28%, according to the 2022 State of Housing Instability and Homelessness Report. But 42% of workers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are considered low-wage earners making $15 per hour or less. This rent/wage discrepancy makes it impossible for these residents to obtain or maintain housing. In addition, the share of Mecklenburg County homes owned by low- and moderate-income residents (earning less than $75,000) has decreased from 43% in 2016 to 36% in 2021.
Under the Board of County Commissioners housing insecurity priority, Mecklenburg County works on multiple fronts to address the affordability issue. The County’s work includes partnering with commercial and community agencies such as Habitat for Humanity to create options for those who need affordable housing. Programs and initiatives have been identified to help prevent homelessness, secure permanent housing, and increase the stock of affordable housing.
Carter Work Project and Habitat for Humanity
Since 1984, President and former first lady Carter have been champions for affordable, decent housing for all, donating their time and leadership each year to build and improve homes through Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. Their efforts help raise awareness of the critical need for decent and affordable housing in the U.S. and around the world. Habitat of Humanity of the Charlotte Region has served more than 4,000 families in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area and Iredell County since its founding in 1983. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes and pay an affordable mortgage. Since its founding, Habitat has served more than 46 million people in the U.S. and around the world.