Eight families sat under a tent in the Lochlyn Hill neighborhood on a recent Saturday. They had grown up in Charlottesville, Sudan, Iraq, Mexico and Cincinnati and had spent the last 15 months building their future homes together through Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville.
Various partners in the project, including future homeowner Holly Wood, stepped up to the podium to thank the assembled guests and dedicate the new duplex and six-plex to the families.
“To the families purchasing these homes, you have demonstrated the hard-working, resilient character of Charlottesville citizens,” said Councilor Heather Hill. “Congratulations, and welcome home.”
Located off Rio Road near Pen Park, Lochlyn Hill straddles the border between Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The site once included a mill and later a wastewater treatment plant before Milestone Partners’ Frank Stoner bought part of the property from the city to clean it up redevelop it.
When Charlottesville approved the rezoning of its portion of Lochlyn Hill, Milestone Partners promised to make 15 percent of the housing affordable. Keeping that promise required working with nonprofit partners.
“Ten years ago, you could have partnered with the private sector, I think, and gotten it done. Today, there’s just no way,” Stoner said.
The gap between the cost of construction and what low-income people can afford to pay is too large, Stoner said. Stoner noted that Habitat also created relationships between the new and existing Lochlyn Hill families in a way a private company would not.
Habitat for Humanity uses a combination of the future homeowners’ “sweat equity,” other volunteer builders, grants and donations to make their houses affordable. Families generally make 25% to 60% of area median income per household, which is $89,400.
Habitat families purchase the land and home through an interest-free loan from Habitat and pay no more than 30 percent of their current income on monthly mortgage payments.
Habitat purchased the lots in Lochlyn Hill in 2017. Stoner said he plans to sell five more lots to Habitat and incorporate affordable rentals into the third phase of the neighborhood.
If the third phase of Lochlyn Hill is built to the maximum density allowed, the total number of units in the neighborhood would be 212, Stoner said.
Non-Habitat homes in Lochlyn Hill are listed on Nest Realty Charlottesville for between $399,900 and $624,900.
If any of the Lochlyn Hill Habitat families choose to sell their home, Habitat has the right to match the price of the first offer to buy it back and sell it affordably to another family. This is the primary way Habitat ensures affordability over time, according to the group’s homeowner services manager, Kristen Lucas.
Ramiro Angel's family stands in front of their new home in the Lochlyn Hill neighborhood.
Credit: Emily Hays/Charlottesville Tomorrow
Ramiro Angel’s family of four is one of the Lochlyn Hill Habitat families. Angel said he has worked at Bizou restaurant and rented in the city’s Belmont neighborhood since he moved from Mexico to Charlottesville almost 19 years ago.
Angel’s family heard about Habitat for Humanity through a friend, and they applied two years ago to become homeowners. He said that once they visited the site, they immediately knew Lochlyn Hill was the right location for them.
“We have waited and waited and waited for June 1,” Angel said. “This is the best day of my life.”
Stoner said the neighborhood park, which already has a playground and also will include a shelter and firepit, likely will be completed by the end of June. A bridge over Meadow Creek, which will connect the neighborhood to Charlottesville’s downtown and area trail networks, is scheduled to be installed on June 19.