A recently completed economic impact study indicates that Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has made a significant economic impact on the community and generated big financial savings for its residents.
The local nonprofit that helps low-income households build affordable homes has now set its sights on its next big project, redeveloping the 346-unit Southwood Mobile Home Park without displacing any of the 1,500 residents.
“We’ve always known in our hearts the impact that the Habitat program has on families, but we wanted to measure the community-wide impact,” said Dan Rosensweig, president of the local Habitat.
Members of the community gathered Tuesday morning at CitySpace to hear the results of the economic impact study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.
The study evaluated Habitat’s direct investment in the community for staffing, rental properties, the Habitat Store and building of homes during 2013. Labor income for 31 Habitat employees and 27 indirectly supported jobs totaled $2.3 million and “industrial output” totaled $8.5 million, including $3 million for home construction.
“Our total labor impact in the community is significant,” Rosensweig said. “In 2013 we were responsible for almost 60 jobs in the community.”
Rosensweig said another key finding from the study was that Habitat homes actually raise the property values of nearby properties.
In the last 25 years, Habitat has built 150 homes owned by partner families, preserved 350 homes and rental properties and created housing for 2,000 people.
Habitat’s preference is to have high-density developments near jobs and public transportation. The group has completed two mixed-income communities and four more are under construction this year.
The Paton Street development in the Fifeville neighborhood in 2011 was Habitat’s first mixed-income community in Virginia. The redevelopment of Sunrise Park in 2013 was the first Habitat project in the nation to transform a trailer park into new housing without displacing the residents.
“What was once a trailer park is now a community space, public space and senior housing with incredible diversity,” Rosensweig said.
Rosensweig acknowledged the stigma of living near affordable housing but said the study shows there is an increase in nearby property values. Homes within 1,500 feet of a Habitat home were “worth 6.55 percent more as a result,” according to the study.
“Investing in affordable housing generates income for the community,” Rosensweig said of the higher property values and additional tax revenues for the city of Charlottesville. “It’s not just money that goes one direction.”
Terry Rephann, the study’s lead researcher from the Weldon Cooper Center, noted that Habitat doesn’t just construct one type of home and complimented the nonprofit’s efforts to seek resident feedback.
“They also incorporate different design aspects to conform to the neighborhood,” said Rephann.
The redevelopment of the Southwood Mobile Home Park in Albemarle County will be what Rosensweig calls a “big aspirational project.”
“The owner of Southwood came to us in 2007 and asked us if we would do something similar to what we did at Sunrise,” he said.
Rosensweig said this redevelopment is huge in scope with Southwood’s 400 families.
“Southwood has many challenges but many opportunities,” he said.
He said non-displacement would be a core value for the redevelopment of Southwood.
“We are trying to amplify what is already good,” said Rosensweig. “That’s what’s going to make Southwood a sustainable community long-term.”
The timeline for the Southwood project is unclear. Rosensweig said they don’t want to rush development before hearing from the community.
“We are sitting down with each resident to see what their vision of the future is,” he said. “That will take eight or nine months. We want the residents to feel ready for this, like they have participated in the decisions, and are excited about it.”
To read the economic impact study in full, visit www.cvillehabitat.org/eis.