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The University of Virginia today announced its goals to support the development of between 1,000 and 1,500 affordable housing units in Charlottesville and Albemarle County on parcels owned by the university and the UVa Foundation.

“As an anchor institution, we feel a responsibility to be a good neighbor.  One of the most
pressing needs in our region is affordable housing, and we are looking forward to doing our part
to help increase the supply,” UVa President Jim Ryan said in a statement.

Through a multi-phased approach in the next decade, development will happen in the area with UVa selecting development partners through a competitive process.

“The university has a substantial impact on the economy and vitality of this region,” Rector James B. Murray Jr. said in a news release.. “As a local resident, I am particularly excited about UVa’s role in tackling tough issues that affect local citizens, with a shortage of affordable housing being among the most pressing.”

The university also plans to focus on other local needs. Ryan and the President’s Council on UVa-Community Partnerships also announced the formation of four working groups that will focus on affordable housing, the local economy, early childhood education and the employment pipeline.

The groups include members of the community and UVa representatives and will address key issues identified by the UVa-Community Working Group in 2019. Another priority the group identified was paying university employees a living wage. Last year, UVa announced it would raise its wage to $15 an hour for all full-time employees by Jan 1, 2020. It also announced that major contractors who work on the grounds would join the university and pay the same wage.

According to the release, the groups are as follows:

  • The Local Economy Working Group will examine UVa’s procurement needs and how they can be matched with local businesses. 
  • The Pipelines and Pathways Working Group will look for ways to grow UVa’s employment pipeline, with the goal of improving access for underrepresented groups and ensuring that current workers have opportunities for promotion and growth; 
  • The Early Childhood Education Working Group will work to increase access to affordable, high-quality educational experiences for children ages 0-5, with an emphasis on training and supporting local early childhood educators;
  • The Affordable Housing Advisory Group will make recommendations related to housing goals, site selection, development strategy and engagement with community and housing partners to support the development of 1,000 to 1,500 affordable housing units. 

“The individuals in the groups were carefully selected to bring together people who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to problem-solve side by side,” Brennan Gould, president and CEO of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and the other co-chair of the President Council, said in a statement.  “Each group includes community experts with lived experiences that are most proximate to, and most impacted by, the challenges these groups seek to address. By bringing this perspective together with nonprofit, business, philanthropy, and UVa perspectives, these groups chart a new path forward for UVa-community partnership.” 

Local entrepreneur Destinee Wright will serve as co-chair of the local economy work group. While concrete plans for her work group’s meetings are still being coordinated, she expressed excitement to be involved.

“It sounds like an awesome initiative to try to bridge the gap between the Charlottesville and UVa communities,” Wright said. “It’s a lot of people with busy schedules, so I’m eager for our first meeting.”