CHARLOTTE, NC – Homelessness in Charlotte is the major problem facing the city. Although only New York City houses more banks than Charlotte in the United States, the lack of affordable housing has resulted in many police school teachers, police officers as well as blue collar workers being either homeless, living in other municipalities or otherwise unable to afford housing for their families in the city where they work.
Being the consummate religious and social action leader, Dr. Dwayne A. Walker, pastor of the Little Rock AME Zion Church, was not only troubled by the social injustices in the city and this country, but also the fact that families within 5-10 blocks of the church located in uptown Charlotte, are homeless and/or living in shelters, some even with jobs. After much prayer, he expressed this concern with the Boards of Trustees and Stewards and in January 2018 discussed the prospect of requesting the City of Charlotte deed the land adjacent to the Little Rock Cultural Center (the main church building until 1981) to the Little Rock Community Development Center for the express purpose of building affordable housing. After meeting with the City Manager and some members of the City Council, Little Rock leaders agreed to submit a formal proposal for them to give the land (at no cost) for the express purpose to build affordable housing.
Throughout the year, negotiations continued between the city and the Little Rock Community Development Center Board of Directors which includes Church leaders, Church members, community members and representatives. A developer was selected and more joint meetings with the Charlotte City Council, Mayor and planning commission took place. Then, the November 2018 mid-term elections resulted in a bond being passed to provide $50 million for affordable housing in Charlotte to be matched by the private sector. This was a major plus as not only was the city considering giving us the land, but now the citizens of Charlotte had voted for funds to be provided for affordable housing. The Little Rock proposal qualifies for this funding.
At a Church Members’ meeting in March 2019, the developer made a presentation in which the church boards agreed to provide the small strip of land between the Little Rock Cultural Center as an act of good faith to further enhance the fact that the church was serious. The members voted in the affirmative to proceed with the proposal to include the strip of land (valued at $553 thousand) with the stipulation that the land would be returned to the church if the project did not proceed in a timely manner. The city would donate the land requested, valued at $1.1 million dollars. The housing funds approved by the city for the project is $5.2 million. In May and June 2019, there were zoning hearings in city hall in which Little Rock members and friends packed the chamber so as to have standing room only and members in the hallways. There were several community meetings as well with input from the neighbors. As a result, the City Council voted unanimously to give the land to build 100 affordable housing units, a property with a total estimated value of $15 million.
We are our brother’s keeper. Already providing food and clothing daily and fifty other active ministries, the addition of affordable housing to the members of the community is a significant accomplishment in the life of not only Charlotte and Little Rock AME Zion Church but the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church as a whole! All initiated by the visionary leadership of a mighty man of God, the Pastor, Rev. Dr. Dwayne Anthony Walker.
Excellence in ministry!