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Planning a More Equitable Charlotte


In Depth

Planning a More Equitable Charlotte

Downtown Charlotte skyline, with residences in the foreground. Charlotte Future 2040 uses an equity growth framework and place types to guide housing decisions.

In 2021, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, adopted its first comprehensive plan since 1975, after seeing its population increase by 8 percent in 5 years. The Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan consists of three parts: the plan policy, a manual and metrics, and an implementation strategy. The plan includes 10 primary goals to promote equitable and sustainable growth. Two of the plan’s goals directly pertain to housing: ensuring housing access for all and promoting more diverse and inclusive neighborhoods. The plan also calls for zoning revisions to allow more housing types, including in neighborhoods that historically have had only single-family houses. The plan recommends that the city relax zoning requirements, lower processing fees, and streamline permit reviews to facilitate the construction of more middle- and high-density housing. The plan further recommends that the city adopt similar measures to require or encourage the addition of income-restricted units and strengthen fair housing protections. These actions can create more affordable housing while limiting displacement, helping the city further its goal of building more inclusive neighborhoods.

All three parts of the comprehensive plan incorporate an equitable growth framework to address historic inequities and ensure that all residents benefit from Charlotte’s growth. The framework prioritizes policies and areas of the city according to four equity metrics. One metric assesses access to housing based on the types and sizes of dwellings, average housing costs, the presence of subsidized units, tenure of occupants, and level of investment in the housing stock. Another metric addresses environmental justice, identifying the presence of heavy industrial uses, major transportation infrastructure, and floodplains. Other metrics evaluate access to amenities and services and to employment. The equity framework includes a map that uses the four metrics to create an index measuring residents’ vulnerability to displacement. This index, which indicates area residents’ abilities to adapt to social and economic changes as the city grows, considers age, race, education, and poverty status. The city intends to use the equity framework to monitor progress toward fairness and justice as it implements the comprehensive plan.

The comprehensive plan recommends that Charlotte’s growth occur in “complete communities” rather than in the single-use neighborhoods that have been developed in recent decades. Such communities consist of combinations of 10 place types that vary by the mix and intensity of land uses, building sizes, and block layouts, as well as transportation options. The plan provides photographs of building types and birds-eye views to illustrate the character of each place type. Two of the place types are primarily residential. The Neighborhood 1 place type consists of low- to medium-density residential development — primarily detached single-family houses although some single-family lots may include accessory dwelling units. This place type also includes small multifamily structures, generally with two to four units, that seldom exceed four stories. The densest part of this place type is oriented toward adjacent mixed-use activity centers. The Neighborhood 2 place type is a residential area with a higher density than Neighborhood 1; although it includes some detached single-family houses, it consists primarily of attached single-family and multifamily structures. Multifamily buildings in the Neighborhood 2 place type are generally up to five stories tall and sometimes include spaces for nonresidential uses on the ground floor. This place type also allows civic buildings such as schools and parks. Other place types, such as Neighborhood Center, Community Activity Center, and Innovation Mixed-Use, are predominantly nonresidential places that include low- and midrise multifamily structures, although these place types are predominantly nonresidential. The Regional Activity Center place type includes many of the same uses, with some multifamily and mixed-use structures exceeding 20 stories.

Click here to access the plan policy of Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan and how it addresses regulatory barriers. Find more plans, regulations, and research that state and local governments can use to reduce impediments to affordable housing at HUD USER’s Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse.

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