Catholic Diocese building low-income housing in Charlotte

msprice@charlotteobserver.comJuly 10, 2014 

The first phase, named in honor of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, will house adults with mental and/or physical disabilities who are able to live independently with coaching and monitoring support.

CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF CHARLOTTE

The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte will enter the city’s low-income housing market Wednesday, with groundbreaking on a 20-acre site that will eventually have 253 units for the elderly and for adults with disabilities.

Phase one is a 13-unit complex to be completed in the next eight months a half mile south of the intersection of South Tryon Street and Carowinds Boulevard. These units will be reserved for adults of any age who have mental and physical disabilities.

Mother Teresa Villa represents the diocese’s first attempt to build low-income housing in Charlotte, which has a shortage of affordable housing. The diocese has two existing housing projects for low-income seniors outside of the city: one in Mooresville (40 units) and another in Salisbury (18 units).

Cost of the 13-unit complex is $2 million – supplied by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – with an additional $900,000 provided by the diocese for site preparation.

A start date has not been set for the remaining 240 units, which will be reserved for low-income seniors. The completed project will include a chapel, gardens, open space and outdoor activity space.

The nonprofit InReach, which provides residential and community support for the disabled, will manage Mother Teresa Villa.

“Safe, affordable housing for this population is one of our biggest needs,” said Lori Gougeon of InReach, noting there are already 50 people on a waiting list for the 13 units.

“Just because you have a developmental disability doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. We have people who have successful jobs and are just looking for a chance to be treated fairly as contributing, taxpaying members of the community.”

The disabled will pay 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent, and the federal government will subsidize the rest.

Charlotte’s shortage of affordable housing has contributed to a wide range of community problems, including a 57 percent increase in homelessness among families since 2009. However, proposals to build low-income projects throughout the city to house the homeless have met with resistance from neighboring homeowners.

None of the people with disabilities who will be moving into Mother Teresa Villa are counted among the homeless, officials said. They may be sharing a home with family or friends.

The 20 acres has been owned by the diocese for 20 years and was once considered a prime spot to locate a new parish, said Jerry Widelski, head of the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte Housing Corp.

He says the housing corporation has been looking for ways to help the disabled and elderly in Charlotte, and it found an opportunity by partnering with InReach to handle services, including a staff member who will live on site.

Widelski said he is not sure when work will begin on the remaining units. None will be reserved for Catholics, he added.

“We’re new at developing affordable housing, so it has taken us some time to get off the ground,” he said. “We could end up developing (the site) in stages.”

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