Cabarrus County is changing, and it’s changing fast.
Down Home has held several listening events throughout Cabarrus, in Midland and Concord. Cabarrus County is a very old place, with lots of history (the first gold in the United States was discovered at the Reed Gold Mine in 1799). But it’s also one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina. You can walk through downtown Concord or drive to Frank Liske Park and see construction cranes in the sky. Construction sites, with new office buildings and nice, new houses, are replacing farmland and trailer parks.
This county is growing very quickly and Cabarrus County’s different communities are feeling the stress. With our organizer Taeja, we heard a few recurring themes. Some of them are old problems and some of them are new, but there was a sense from the people of Cabarrus that these problems can be solved if addressed by people in power. Even though everyone had so many great things to say about their community and felt real pride about their homes in Cabarrus County, they also wanted a better living experience for themselves, their families, and their neighborhood. This is what we heard.
Working families are getting priced out of Cabarrus County.
Cabarrus used to be an affordable place to live. But with the growth of Charlotte, and more wealthy people moving in and driving up the price of homes, people in Cabarrus County are facing rising prices across the board.
“The county is getting really hard for a working family with a couple of kids to live here,” said one mom. “The new housing seems to be for single young professionals, not families. Where are we supposed to live?”
Their neighbors are struggling to find ways to stay in the county because of its high quality of life, but the cost of rent is getting to be too much. “I know more families that are living together to pool resources because they can’t afford a place of their own,” said one parent.
“There are some good jobs here and it feels like good pay, but with the cost of housing and gas and food– it might have been good three years ago but it just hasn’t kept up.”
People feel divided and unseen by their leaders.
Our friends in Cabarrus were united in one thing: that they feel divided by the economic and political system. They felt the divisions of age and race, and our listening sessions reflected these differences. One older Black woman said “Everything is divided: people, neighborhoods, parties. But we’re all responsible.”
When asked what could be done about the division, another older citizen said “The whole county is Republican led, and there is no opposition.” The group described a system where district attorneys become judges and justice is kept “all in the family“ — and that family doesn’t include everyone in the county, especially not Black and Brown people.
“They don’t see us in the room,” said one middle-aged Black woman, who was calling for greater participation and visibility for her neighbors. “We need to make our voices heard,” she said.
Education is key, but many people feel locked out.
People felt excited about the growth of their county, but worried that not everyone is being given the same opportunities. This applied especially to education.
“Kids with special needs are being left behind,” said one parent. “It’s nearly impossible for parents to find the time to advocate for their children. Communication needs to be better.”
The number of students and their needs are growing, but there aren’t enough schools. A few parents described some schools that “look like trailer parks” because there are so many mobile classrooms. “We are in dire need of resources for our schools,” she said, “but people are at the school boards yelling about indoctrination and threatening teachers. We need to support our schools, not use them as pawns or bargaining chips.”
One group extended the need for education to parents and adults, who struggle to connect with services and know how to participate in their communities. “We need education for everyone, not just kids,” she said.
Housing is out of control.
A recurring desire for folks in Cabarrus County was the need for quality house at affordable prices.
But rent in the county is skyrocketing, and families are being priced out. Even public housing is suffering, which is very bad for new families and older residents on a fixed income.
“At one point, public housing was kept up to a standard,” said an older woman in her sixties. “The people running it kept it up, and the people living in it kept it up. But now everything is falling apart.”
This led another woman to say “We know the problems. At what point do we say enough is enough?”
Cabarrus County wants a healthier, unified future.
People are our listening sessions were worried about increased crime around the county, and a concern for the young people caught up in a system that doesn’t care for them or provide healthy outlets.
“You have 12 or 13 year olds going into the system,” said one grandmother. “And there’s nothing for them to do when they get out.”
Kids and adults without a car are out of luck in Cabarrus County, they say. There are some nice recreation centers, but no way to get to them. Public transportation is lacking or non-existent for many people in Cabarrus County.
When the idea of mental health services came up, one room laughed in unison. “The services are all booked up for months, but we have kids who need help right now.”
Despite the issues, people at the Cabarrus County listening events we optimistic that their problems could be overcome.
“It’s going to take unity,” said one older man. “Accept people for who they are. We must learn to love one another again.”
Down Home is hosting listening sessions all across rural NC as a part of our 10,000 Conversations Project. Our organization will be talking to 10,000 rural North Carolinians this year to hear what issues matter most to them, who they think is responsible, and what we can do to create change. Once we hear from all y’all, we will be creating a working class mandate to steer our endorsements and our work across the state.
Want to make your voice heard, too? Join our 10,000 Conversations Project by taking our online survey here.
Want to get involved in Cabarrus County? Awesome! Reach out to Taeja at [email protected]!