By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, February 4, 2010

City Council

has set an ambitious and potentially costly goal of having 15% of Charlottesville’s housing stock classified as “affordable housing” by 2025. However, Council opted to defer a discussion of how much the City could afford to spend to reach the goal until the upcoming budget discussion. A staff report projects the cost of meeting the goal could average as much as $1.7 million a year in City funds.

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The report on the city’s affordable housing strategies was recommended last year in a

Weldon-Cooper study commissioned by Council to look for ways to make city government more efficient

. City staff prepared the housing report with guidance from the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee. The 31-page document tracks how the City has spent $4.82 million over the past five years to bring 530 housing units within an affordable range to low income residents.

Download the Affordable Housing Strategies report

A unit is deemed affordable if it costs its occupants no more than 30% of their annual income, and if those occupants earn less than 80% of the area median income. In Charlottesville, the average family of four has an income of $72,800. A household of four that only earns $58,250 is classified as low income.

The report cites a 2007 U.S. Census report that estimated almost half of the City’s households are spending more than 30% of their income on their home. The report also suggests the need for affordable housing will continue to grow. In 2003, there were 1,308 families waiting to be recipients of Section 8 vouchers. By 2009, that number had jumped to 2,629.

The report defines “supported affordable unit” as one that is subsidized by funds from the U.S. Housing of Urban Development, the Virginia Housing & Development Authority, the City of Charlottesville. The number also includes units that are guaranteed “affordable” by developers through deed restrictions, paid for with down payment or rental assistance, as well as tax credits that give incentives to property owners to keep rents within affordable range.

This chart from the report breaks down the many ways in which housing costs are kept affordable. Click to enlarge.

There is currently a total of 1,933 “supported affordable units” in Charlottesville, according to the report. That equates to about 10% of the City’s housing stock. In order to maintain that figure, the report says continued investment will be necessary. For example, 200 units at the Hearthwood complex could revert to market rate in 2011 because the tax credits used in their financing will expire. Melissa Celii, a grants coordinator in the City’s

Department of Neighborhood Development Services

, said the 12% target could be reached with an average investment of $1 million per year. The report estimates it would take $1.7 million a year to achieve the City’s adopted goal of 15%.

During the Council’s discussion on the topic, City Councilor

Holly Edwards

said she supported the 15% goal.

“Housing is just as important as the other infrastructure that we invest in in our community,” Edwards said.

However, Councilor

David Brown

suggested a 12% goal would be a good “reasonable number” to attain during a time of budgetary uncertainty.

“I think we should always be cognizant of not solving the region’s affordable housing problems by ourselves,” Brown said.


Kristin Szakos

said could justify the higher goal because she said there were lots of people who would like to live in Charlottesville but can’t afford a place to live.

Since 2004, City investment has helped preserve 530 units, as broken down in this chart from the report. Click to enlarge.

Norris weighed in and said he would break the tie in favor a 15% goal, but was aware of the possibility of a tight budget.

“We’re entirely dependent on our financial ability to meet these goals,” Norris said. “We’re  not making any financial commitment at this time. It’s really a moral commitment and a strategic commitment.”

In fiscal year 2008, the City dedicated $2.15 million. In the current fiscal year, Celii said the City has spent $1.4 million, including

$500,000 used to invest

in Virginia Supportive Housing’s

SRO project


Council deferred discussion of the specific level of funding until the budget review begins in March.


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