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. 
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Charlottesville Affordable Housing Action Items

October/November 2020 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 development of housing strategies in the City and the County. 

1.      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.

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.

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.

2.      City Affordable Housing Strategy - Shared Equity and Self Help Homeownership

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. On 8/11/20, the consultant team presented an update on their work to the City Planning Commission. The presentation focused on three target areas for addressing home affordability: land use, subsidy, and tenants’ rights. Within subsidy, the consultants listed the following potential tools for supporting affordable homeownership:

●       Single-family infill development

●       Owner-occupied rehabilitation assistance

●       Community land trust

●       Down-payment assistance & Homeowner Counseling

●       Property Tax Relief

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. 

To hear the consultants’ update, click here and scroll down to Cville Planning Commission - 8/11/20. The HR&A consultants begin presenting at 1:07:00. They speak specifically about homeownership at 1:39:00.

Habitat’s Position: Habitat supports the tools listed by the consultants for supporting affordable homeownership. However, other models for Shared Equity (in addition to a community land trust – for which a family doesn’t benefit by the appreciation in the cost of land) such as appreciation sharing agreements AND Self-Help Homeownership are glaring omissions from this list.

Shared equity homeownership programs create affordable homeownership opportunities for families with modest incomes. The model ensures that the homes remain affordable long term or reinvest proceeds of subsequent sales to help family after family purchase homes. The definition of shared equity homeownership should explicitly include programs such as Habitat, which create opportunities for local families to purchase new and rehabbed homes at an affordable price and then creates rules for sharing the appreciation in value if the home is sold. These programs balance wealth building for families with preserving the community’s investment.

Self-help homeownership, recognized by HUD as its own specific form of homeownership, is a model that exchanges “sweat equity” for financial equity and helps families achieve “skin in the game.”

Habitat has closed on 122 new and rehabilitated homes in the city over the last ten years to families at or below 60% of area median income, making it the largest provider of affordable homeownership in the city.

Action Needed: Please contact the City Planning Commission at planningcommission@charlottesville.org and City Council at council@charlottesville.org and ask them to explicitly include other forms of Shared Equity homeownership (in addition to land trusts) inclusive of appreciation sharing models AND Self Help Homeownership in recommendations for the City’s affordable housing plan. A land trust model alone is not enough to significantly reduce the historic racial wealth gap in Charlottesville. In order to close the gap, partnerships that enable low-wealth families to earn a greater proportion of equity are critical.

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: 10/26/2020