After dodging questions for more than a year, Midway Manor owners confirms affordability and that renovations are starting
Earlier this summer, Charlottesville Tomorrow published a story about how residents and city officials had struggled — mostly in vain — for more than a year to get the owners of Midway Manor to tell them when they planned to begin promised reconstruction or if they intended to continue offering government subsidized housing.
Standard Community’s senior director, Steven Kahn, has since provided Charlottesville Tomorrow with more information.
“We’ve been unintentionally silent, but things are happening,” said Kahn about the lack of communication that had frustrated city leaders and anguished Midway Manor residents. “We’d hoped and expected to be in this position a year ago.”
Standard Communities bought Midway Manor, a subsidized apartment building for seniors and people with disabilities, in January 2022. The company quickly announced plans to renovate the property. They worked with the Charlottesville Regional Housing Authority to secure $23 million in bond money to finance the project, moved construction materials onto the parking lot and told residents that construction would begin later that summer.
A few months later, those materials suddenly disappeared and Standard Communities went quiet. Residents became increasingly nervous as time went by without word from their building’s owner. They, along with local officials and journalists, including Charlottesville Tomorrow, regularly reached out for information and received few responses.
After Charlottesville Tomorrow’s story, Standard broke its silence.
The company will continue to rent to seniors and individuals with disabilities whose rent is subsidized by the government. Standard extended the building’s Section-8 contract with the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Kahn said.
The amount Midway Manor residents pay in rent will not change.
Most of the building’s residents receive social security and disability benefits as their sole income. They pay 30% of their income toward rent, and the government covers the rest.
Renovations to the building’s exterior began in late July, starting with a roof replacement. That should be done this month, Josh Horton, chief operating officer for Martin Horn, a local contracting firm working on the renovations, confirmed with Charlottesville Tomorrow. Interior renovations will begin sometime in September. The exact time depends on how long it takes the company to get materials, which “have been a moving target over the past few years,” Horton said.
For the renovations, Kahn said “it’s very difficult to think of a piece of the building that is not going to be modernized, upgraded, or otherwise improved.” There will be new cabinets, countertops, floors, appliances, windows, paint. The apartments, which haven’t been updated much since they were built in 1980, will look like new, and everything will work, Kahn said.
The building’s systems will be “either repaired, upgraded, or totally replaced depending on their need,” said Kahn. That includes the roof, the façade, boilers, and HVAC, plumbing, and electric systems.
More about Midway Manor
Standard plans to re-do common areas and other spaces so residents can have bingo nights, holiday parties, a library, and whatever else they’d like. There are plans for raised garden beds, bocce and horseshoe courts, and more seating outside. While there’s some green space out behind the building, it’s only accessible by stairs, which means it’s not accessible to most residents, and Kahn said Standard is looking into changing that.
Resources were the reason for the yearlong delay, said Kahn. “We kind of had to wait our turn.”
In early 2022, Standard Communities asked City Council and the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority for some help. Khan and others made a presentation before the Council and the public, asking it to give the OK for CRHA to approve the issuance of $23 million in revenue bonds for the renovations.
Revenue bonds are a common way of paying for these types of projects, UVA Law professor Rich Schragger told Charlottesville Tomorrow at the time.
And only certain entities — like state and local housing authorities, including CRHA — have the authority to approve the issuance of them.
In approving the issuance, CRHA basically vouched for Standard, telling the private investors who buy the bonds that it trusts Standard will pay them back.
There’s no financial risk involved for CRHA or the City, as the $23 million is not city money, and Standard is responsible for paying back the principal balance and the interest on the bonds. CRHA will earn a small fee for being the conduit.
That, along with Standard’s presentation stating that renovations would begin in summer 2022, led Midway Manor residents and city officials to believe things would start moving forward.
But the process hit a bump, one that neither Standard nor building management (Franklin Johnston Group) communicated to building residents or the city officials asking on their behalf, leaving the community in the dark on what was happening.
Every calendar year, there is a limit on the amount of bond money an entity can approve and issue, and in 2022, “it was oversubscribed,” said Alexis Carey, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which worked with CRHA and Standard on the bond issuance. Even though CRHA had OK’d a bond issuance, there were no more bonds left to be allocated in 2022.
And so Standard had to wait until the next calendar year. The company applied again in January 2023, and in February, a bond allocation was approved through the Local Housing Authority Private Activity Bond Pool, Carey said.
During that time, Standard applied for, and entered into, a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit agreement with Virginia Housing. LIHTC is a federal tax program through the IRS. In a LIHTC agreement, a company receives tax credits for building or rehabilitating low-income housing. The company can then sell those credits to private investors to help fund the project. The contract requires the company to keep the housing affordable for 30 years. (More on how this works from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.)
During a tenants’ association meeting on the last day of June, the dozen or so residents in attendance were relieved to hear that renovations would begin, and that their rents would not change. One held her hands up in the air. Another closed her eyes and audibly exhaled.
During the last week of July, residents received a memo alerting them of the interior renovation process. The memo said that units would be renovated 10 at a time, starting on the fourth (top) floor, and that residents will be notified 30 days before their apartment is to be renovated, so that they’ll have time to pack.
Standard will pay for packing materials and professional movers, and all of the residents’ belongings will be moved with them to a guest apartment in the building, (complete with utilities and internet) for the duration of work on their apartment.
A designated staff member will help coordinate all of these details with each resident, making accommodations for medical equipment like oxygen tanks and hospital beds. That person is already on-site, residents told Charlottesville Tomorrow.