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

February/March 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 of Charlottesville, the update of a housing policy in Albemarle County, support for future phases of Southwood redevelopment and HFHI’s Federal Policy Priorities.  

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.

In its initial draft budget, City staff recommended dedicating $800K to the CAHF for items outside of CRHA and Friendship Court rehabilitation and housing vouchers. At its February meeting, the City Planning Commission recommending increasing that amount.

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 agree with the Planning Commission’s recommendation to increase the CAHF and also believe it should include at least $800K specifically for affordable homeownership

Action Needed: Please contact City Council at council@charlottesville.org and tell them that you support the Planning Commission’s recommendation to increase the CAHF and ask them to specifically direct $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 updating its affordable housing policy. Although details of the final plan 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. Simply reducing the price point or marketing the program better will not appreciably solve the problem.

Habitat’s Position: Habitat supports the development of an updated housing policy 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.”

We believe that for units to satisfy the definition of “affordable” and hence count against County requirements, the occupant of the unit at the time of sale or rental must be a qualified low- or moderate-income beneficiary, as established by their income and that there should be no provision for waiver of the obligation based on time on the market.

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 updating their affordable housing policy.

2.      Request that the policy 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. There should also be no waiver of an affordability requirement based on time on the market.

3.      Continued Support for Southwood

Background: 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 as many as 750 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 appreciates the County looking to address its affordable housing deficit holistically. However, we are concerned about perceived “Southwood Fatigue” on the part of key public officials.

The first phase of Southwood redevelopment was intentionally designed as a pilot project or a “model village,” to demonstrate what is possible at Southwood and to inspire future cohorts – “next adopters” – to participate in the planning process as robustly as have the “Early Adopters.

Phase I, when complete, will comprise roughly 25% of the total Southwood land mass and will rehouse roughly 25% of current residents. Future phases, currently in the rezoning stage, are key to rehousing the remaining 75% of current residents and to adding significantly to the local affordable housing stock.

The County has supported phase I with staff and financial support, all of which was stimulated by a Board of Supervisors resolution naming Southwood redevelopment as a priority project. We believe that the current Board of Supervisors should pass an updated resolution signaling an intent to continue to support future phases of redevelopment.

Action Needed: Please contact members of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at bos@albemarle.org and

1.      Thank them for supporting phase I of the Southwood Redevelopment

2.      Remind them the phase I will be about 25% of the overall project

3.      Request that they consider an updated resolution that prioritizes future phases of Southwood for support

4.      Cost of Home Federal Policy Priorities

Background: Each year, Habitat International’s Government Relations and Advocacy team establishes a list of Congressional legislative priorities.

This year, the priorities are:

1.      Ensuring that Mortgage Relief is included in any upcoming COVID relief legislation.

2.      Supporting the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA).

3.      Support Increased Appropriations for three critical programs:

a.       Self Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP)

b.      Housing Opportunity Made Equitable (HOME)

c.       USDA 502 Direct Loans

Habitat’s Position: These three initiatives are critical tools that can gain bipartisan support this year. We are asking for mortgage assistance in upcoming relief acts because, for families who do have access to forbearance, many will still need assistance getting current on their mortgages once forbearance expires, which could be as soon as April for many. We support NHIA because this piece of bipartisan legislation will revitalize distressed neighborhoods by using federal income tax credits to mobilize private investment to build and substantially rehabilitate homes for low and moderate income homeowners. And we support SHOP, HOME and USDA Direct because they are among the most effective and highly leverageable federal programs helping Habitat and other organizations extend affordable housing opportunities. 

Action Needed: Please contact your representative and senators and ask them to:

1.      Ensure that Mortgage Relief is included in any upcoming COVID relief legislation.

2.      Support the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA).

3.      Support Increase Appropriations for three critical programs:

a.       Self Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP)

b.      Housing Opportunity Made Equitable (HOME)

c.       USDA 502 Direct Loans

Representative Bob Good: https://good.house.gov/contact

Senator Tim Kaine: https://www.kaine.senate.gov/contact

Senator Mark Warner: https://www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

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: 3/1/2021