The Charlottesville City Council wants to see the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s larger plan for public housing redevelopment. On Monday, the council voted unanimously to release $908,249 in already appropriated funds to new uses required by the housing authority. In exchange, the council asked that some of the funding go towards a fiscal feasibility study of redevelopment and a master plan for redevelopment of CRHA’s South First Street neighborhood.“Ultimately, isn’t the goal of the housing authority that it is generating its own revenue so that it doesn’t need so many contributions from the city over time? In which case, we just need to see that plan,” Councilor Kathy Galvin said. The council previously had specified that the funds go towards uses like a modernization coordinator position and “predevelopment” of the Crescent Halls apartments. “If there are other uses that are more relevant now to the housing authority in this redevelopment phase, I think it’s fair and appropriate that the council hear that and then articulate that a different use is OK,” interim City Manager Mike Murphy said.CRHA is applying for major federal funding for redevelopment in March and hoping to begin construction in December. The first two sites to redevelop would be the South First Street ballfield and Crescent Halls. Mayor Nikuyah Walker supported a larger master plan for South First Street but was concerned about the council forcing public housing to be self-sustaining. She said that mixing public housing units with market-rate units could cause displacement.“If [someone making $14,000 a year] is not living according to the ‘standards’ that [their neighbor] making $100,000 feels that they should be meeting, and they call social services or the police department, what happens to that family?” Walker asked.Councilor Mike Signer said that the council could think about their contributions to public housing like impact investing. He said that the feasibility study could include social effects, like the number of citizens whose lives are improved, as part of the city’s return on investment. Walker also suggested that they forgive $191,134 in rent, telephone bills and other fees that the housing authority owes the city. That funding would help pay for the study and master plan. A resolution that would allow that to happen will be presented at a later meeting.
Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.