MARCH 22, 2011 – For different people, gardening can be a hobby, a passion, or an obligation; for James*, it is a blessing. His new home in the Cottages at Jetton, a four-unit affordable rental community for people with disabilities developed by Davidson Housing Coalition, has a front porch with plenty of space for his growing container garden.
James, who recently turned 44, undergoes chemotherapy treatments twice a week for cancer. He had been living in Charlotte, but wanted to move to Davidson to be closer to his friends and his doctors. “He wanted to be here to have a peaceful end of life, for whatever amount of time that is,” said Marcia Webster, executive director of Davidson Housing. “It’s been a tremendous difference and positive impact on his life. Just to be able to live in this place where he can decorate the way he wants to; he loves plants, he loves flowers, and he believes it’s the most beautiful apartment he’s ever seen.”
The Cottages are one-bedroom rental units designed for people with disabilities who earn less than 30 percent of the area median income. “It’s a very, very low-income development,” said Webster, “so the quality of housing that he is in now is unequal to anything that he’s ever experienced.”
The units are designed in the same bungalow style as Davidson Housing’s neighboring homes, which were built in 2000. They blend into the neighborhood seamlessly, which is one goal of the area’s inclusionary zoning ordinance. The land for the Cottages was donated to Davidson Housing by the neighborhood’s developer, in order to maintain compliance with the zoning ordinance’s affordable housing requirement.
It was difficult for Davidson Housing to find funding to develop traditional housing on the donated land, since it was such a small parcel. “There might be bricks and mortar funding out there available for large projects, but when you get to something that small, there’s just not available dollars,” said Webster. “We looked at the Supportive Housing Development Program from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, and they actually like to have small projects like this. So, I started researching that and looking at the availability of affordable rental units in the Lake Norman region for disabled people and there are none. There’s nothing for them in all of Lake Norman.”
The Cottages are a necessary first step toward correcting that oversight. For Dawn*, who recently moved into the unit next door to James, they provided an opportunity for her to move closer to her sister. She had been living by herself in a trailer in Fayetteville and the opportunity to move couldn’t have come at a better time. “The day before the application appointment, Dawn’s trailer was hit by a car,” said Nancy Waldrop, HAMMERS (Hands Around Mecklenburg/Mooresville Making Emergency Repairs Safely) coordinator and property manager for Davidson Housing. “There was a lot of damage and she was hurt. It happened in the night and she said she woke up to a state trooper. She’s recovering now but it was very unsettling, and she needed housing that much sooner.”
Dawn’s sister lives in nearby Cornelius and the Cottages allow her to check in with Dawn more easily. “They’re both just really happy to have her in a safe place, near family,” said Waldrop. “Dawn is very excited and glad. She says she doesn’t expect to leave.”
*last names were omitted to preserve their privacy