Charlottesville is reassessing its handling of the affordable housing crisis | local government

Charlottesville is weighing how to best respond to the city’s affordable housing crisis after a recent report found the city could do more.

Since 2010, the city has invested a total of $46.7 million in affordable housing, according to a report by real estate consultancy HR&A. The firm was hired by the city to study the city’s investment process in affordable housing.

“Is it good? The answer is yes. But good is relative, especially because you’ll never spend enough on affordable housing,” Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders said during the city’s business session. city ​​council on Monday.

The study focused on financing, policy, sustainability and effectiveness of the project. According to the report, the city has built and preserved 1,611 affordable housing units and served 640 additional households since 2010.

Sanders said the report shows areas where the city needs to make changes. The city does not track how many affordable units still exist or how long they have been in existence. The city does not have a good internal compliance program or comprehensive housing policy and has not yet defined what it means by affordable housing.

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He said the city’s affordable housing plan is a step in the right direction, but lacks a consistent message, particularly regarding the plan’s suggestion that the city spend $10 million a year for 10 years in affordable housing.

“I asked you at different times, do you see this $10 million a year for 10 years as a goal or a commitment? I consider this an important distinction. When you look at it as a goal, it means you may or may not achieve it and you’re doing your best to get there,” Sanders said. “But if you really consider it a commitment, that means it’s non-negotiable. You should do everything in your power to reach this number.

Sanders also said he thinks $10 million isn’t much considering the level of crisis the city is facing when it comes to affordable housing.

“We already know [members of the public] don’t think $10 million is enough. I did this job. If I were to see what’s happening in Charlottesville and I was on the ground doing the work, no, that’s not enough,” he said. “We need 15 million dollars. That could easily be $20 million, because that’s how much of a crisis we’re really facing in our community. »

Advisors had differing opinions on whether $10 million is a goal or a commitment.

“I view the $10 million as a commitment rather than a goal,” adviser Michael Payne said.

Mayor Lloyd Snook expressed concern about making commitments.

“I’m willing to average, which makes it a goal, but it’s not a commitment for me. Also, we don’t have the authority to bind future advice as a commitment, so to some extent it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to worry about it excessively,” Snook said.

Snook said the $10 million was a “firmly held goal” but warned that an unexpected financial crisis, like the recent pandemic, could make it difficult to achieve.

“My marriage survived COVID,” he said, “some of the city’s financial commitments didn’t survive.”

HR&A made several recommendations to move the city’s affordable housing process forward. These include changes to the city’s Housing Advisory Committee, the creation of a Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund Committee to oversee the use of funds, continued focus on projects that will increase production of affordable housing units, increasing affordability levels, and better tracking how many units are affordable and how long they remain in that category before moving to market rate.

Sanders also suggested the city stop funding housing proposals through the Vibrant Community Fund and move funding to the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund.

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