While our main office is closed to the public in light of Covid-19, we are still working to create safe, affordable homeownership opportunities in Greater Charlottesville. 
You can learn more about Habitat's interim work during Covid-19 here and visit the Store's website to find their adjusted hours and procedures here.

 

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Charlottesville Affordable Housing Action Items

December 2020/January 2021 Advocacy Agenda

For this month, HFHGC’s Advocacy in support of our vision of a Greater Charlottesville where everyone has access to a decent place to live once focuses on the Capital Improvement Program in the City and the development of housing strategies in the City and the County. 

1.     City Charlottesville Capital Improvement Program

Background:

Each year, the City of Charlottesville allocates funding for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund through its Capital Improvement Program. Last year, due to COVID, the vast majority of the capital fund for housing was diverted, rightfully, to emergency rent and mortgage relief. However, that left no money to support capital initiatives, including zero dollars for affordable homeownership.

Habitat’s Position: Habitat supported the reallocation of last year’s CAHF funding to emergency relief in the wake of COVID. However, that created a situation where the City has not supported affordable homeownership for two consecutive years.

As a community, we cannot afford to get further behind by zeroing out funding for affordable homeownership for a third year in a row.

Already, there is a significant racial wealth gap in Charlottesville, primarily caused by the lack of minority homeownership. African-American residents of the community have on average 1/10th of the wealth of others.

Although this is likely to be a tight budget year, we believe that the City’s FY ’21 CIP should include at least $800K specifically for affordable homeownership

Action Needed: Please contact the City Planning Commission at planningcommission@charlottesville.org and City Council at council@charlottesville.org and ask them to include at least $800K in the CIP for affordable homeownership. Remind them that:

  1. There is a 90% racial wealth gap in Charlottesville, largely due to the gap in homeownership.
  2. The CIP has not funded affordable homeownership for two consecutive years.

2.     Albemarle County Affordable Housing Strategy

Background: Albemarle County is in the process of developing an affordable housing strategy. Although details are still unknown, the process has revealed that in approximately 20 years, the County’s current affordable housing proffer policy has produced only 45 units that have gone to low income occupants.

In brief, the current policy requires developers to reserve 15% of their units for affordable housing as part of any rezoning or special use permit application. However, they can satisfy that requirement simply by building a unit and listing it at $243K for a period of 60-90 days. If no low-income purchaser puts a contract on the home, the proffer is considered satisfied and the unit can be sold unrestricted on the market.

Very few low-income homebuyer prospects would qualify for a loan at that price and the short period of time for satisfying the requirement all but ensures that no one will come forward. Although it is often dismissed as a marketing problem – if only the units were advertised better they would sell – the problem in actuality is a policy problem. The parameters and method are not set up to enable broad access to the units among the people that the County most wants and needs to support.

Additionally, Habitat and the County are working together on a redevelopment project at Southwood of considerable community value and national importance. This $250M project will result in upwards of 600 affordable homes without any resident displacement. The County has made a financial commitment to the first phase of development. However, for Southwood to be successful in leveraging outside and market funds, the County will need to memorialize its intent to commit to a similar level of investment throughout the project.

Habitat’s Position: Habitat supports the development of a comprehensive housing strategy in Albemarle County and applauds the Board of Supervisors and staff for taking on the initiative. However, we strongly believe that any tools for creating affordable housing should eliminate the ability to satisfy an affordable housing requirement using a “price model.”

The only way to ensure that homes should count as affordable – for both rentals and homeownership – is if the occupant of the unit at the time of sale or rental is a qualified low- or moderate-income beneficiary, as established by their income.

Additionally, the strategy should explicitly continue to prioritize the multiple future phases of Southwood.

Action Needed: Please contact the County Planning Commission at PlanningCommission@albemarle.org and Board of Supervisors at bos@albemarle.org and:

  1. Thank them for developing a comprehensive affordable housing strategy.
  2. Request that the strategy exclude any allowance for satisfaction of affordable housing requirements based on the rental or sales price of a unit. The only thing that should allow a unit to count as affordable is if the beneficiary is low or moderate income, defined as having a gross family income below 60% of Area Median Income.
  3. Ask that they specifically list future funding and support of Southwood as the top priority in their plan.  

3.      City Affordable Housing Strategy

Background: The City of Charlottesville, as part of the Comprehensive Plan Update, commissioned a consulting team to oversee community engagement (Cville Plans Together) and design an affordable housing strategy that prioritizes equity and affordability. Last month, the consultant team presented an update on their work to the City Planning Commission.

During the presentation, consultants told the Planning Commission that steering committee members had specifically highlighted homeownership as a top concern because of the opportunity to build wealth through owning a home.

Additionally, the Housing Advisory Committee reviewed the draft document and reached a “strong consensus… that the document should make a clearer link between equity and the accumulation of wealth through homeownership, particularly for people of color. African American wealth in Charlottesville is 1/10th of the general population, largely because of a 50% gap in black homeownership rates.”

Additionally, the HAC recommended higher annual funding levels for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, tied to a comprehensive strategic funding tool.  

Habitat’s Position: Habitat supports the majority of the items in the draft housing strategy but agrees with the HAC that the final plan will be strengthened as follows:

  1. Don’t limit wealth creation:

    a. Remove permanent payback provisions for down payment assistance for people at the lower end of the AMI spectrum.

    Proactively acknowledge that homeownership must reach more deeply – even below 30% AMI – for it to significantly impact the racial wealth gap.

    Include mixed income housing development as a specific tool for achieving equity.

  2. Fully fund the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund at $10M/year over and above non-capital expenses and tie that funding to a unified planning and measurement tool.
  3. Provide density bonuses only for projects that include affordable housing.

Action Needed: Please contact the City Planning Commission at planningcommission@charlottesville.org and City Council at council@charlottesville.org and ask them to approved the consultants’ recommendations for the Housing Strategy, but strengthen it as follows, as recommended by the Housing Advisory Committee:

  1. Don’t limit wealth creation: 

    a. Remove permanent payback provisions for down payment assistance for people at the lower end of the AMI spectrum.

    b. Proactively acknowledge that homeownership must reach more deeply – even below 30% AMI – for it to significantly impact the racial wealth gap.

    c. Include mixed income housing development as a specific tool for achieving equity.

  2. Fully fund the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund at $10M/year over and above non-capital expenses and tie that funding to a unified planning and measurement tool.
  3. Provide density bonuses only for projects that include affordable housing.

 

 

This page will be updated on a monthly basis with new action items for people looking to advocate for affordable housing solutions in the greater Charlottesville area.

Last update: 12/7/2020