Homelessness, housing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg

Homeless man sleeping in front of uptown Charlotte library on Jan. 25, 2017. Photo: Peter Safir

Note: For the first time in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, data about homelessness – including the annual Point-in-Time Count – has been combined with data about housing instability to help provide a more complete picture of housing needs in the community.

It’s the most recent installment in a series of local reports on housing instability and homelessness compiled by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and funded by Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. The report, “2018 Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability and Homelessness,” was released Thursday, Aug. 23.

Click here to download full copy of the report

Among its findings:

  • From 2010 to 2016, number of cost-burdened renter households (spending more than 30 percent of gross income on housing) in Mecklenburg County increased by about 12,000 to 75,930.  Although the share of renter households that are cost-burdened decreased, the data show an expanded number of higher-income renters, so the decrease may not reflect a true change for lower-income households. 
  • The number of eviction cases filed in Mecklenburg County court rose during the 2017-18 fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year (2016-17), while the number of evictions the court granted decreased from the 2015-16 fiscal year to the 2017-18 fiscal year.
  • The number of people experiencing sheltered homelessness (5,104) during the 2016-17 fiscal year decreased 17 percent from the previous fiscal year. But the number of people found to be homeless on a one-night count in January 2018 (1,668) was up 13 percent from a similar count in 2017.

The following article about the report is republished with permission from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Dashboard.

On Thursday, August 23, the report, “2018 Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability and Homelessness” will be released to the public on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Dashboard.

The report serves as an annual report on housing instability and homelessness data in the community.

For the first time, Point-in-Time Count information is combined with data from other homeless system measures and housing instability metrics to provide a full picture of housing needs in our community.

The report is part of a local series about housing instability and homelessness funded by Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. The report series is authored by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.


What does a housing continuum look like in Charlotte-Mecklenburg?

The challenges related to housing instability and homelessness are linked. Households that are housing-cost-burdened (paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing) are often one crisis away from facing eviction and falling into homelessness. Once housing is lost, households face significant barriers to regaining housing and become caught in a cycle that perpetuates the problem. The report introduces the concept of a housing continuum linking the issues and data together in one place.

What are the challenges related to housing instability in Charlotte-Mecklenburg? 

Housing instability can take several forms. It is generally referred to when a household is spending more than 30 percent of its income on housing-related expenses. It can also include when households are doubled up or living in overcrowded units, paying week by week to stay in hotels, or facing eviction. The report describes the various forms of housing instability, including how it is measured and what it looks like using local data.

What are the challenges related to homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg?

Homelessness is generally defined as the lack of housing, but the definition can vary depending upon the funding source. The Point-in-Time Count and System Performance Measures use the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) definition, whereas the McKinney-Vento Count of homeless children in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System uses a broader definition under the U.S. Department of Education. The report describes what homelessness looks like in Charlotte-Mecklenburg using multiple definitions and data sources.

What does a path toward housing stability look like in Charlotte-Mecklenburg?

Housing is considered stable if a household is not spending more than 30 percent of income on housing expenses and the housing unit is not overcrowded or substandard. Pathways to housing can include subsidies for rental housing and through naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH). The report describes pathways in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, including local data on programs and funding sources.


Just as the challenges that lead to increased homelessness and housing instability in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are linked, so are the solutions to ending and preventing homelessness and increasing access to affordable housing.

This annual data report lays the foundation for understanding the housing gap challenges in Charlotte-Mecklenburg as interconnected: Lack of housing is connected to homelessness and housing instability. Pathways to stable housing include access to quality childcare and transportation, advancement through education and employment, and opportunity for economic mobility and asset development.

In addition to the report release, a toolkit developed by Mecklenburg County is available to help convert the information from the report into action. Both can be found at “Research: Local Reports.”

This post is co-authored by Ashley Williams Clark and Courtney Morton.

Ashley Williams Clark is Director of Outreach & Strategic Partnerships at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. She is the author of the local report series on evictions in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Courtney Morton coordinates posts on the Building Bridges Blog. She is the Housing & Homelessness Research Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. Her job is to connect data on housing instability, homelessness and affordable housing with stakeholders in the community so they can use it to drive policy-making, funding allocation and programmatic change.