As the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority seeks funding to redevelop the area’s public housing, the authority wants to make sure some of that funding goes back into the pockets of public housing residents and their low-income neighbors.
On Monday, the CRHA Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a new policy to promote resident self-sufficiency and help the authority comply with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 3 program. Commissioners LaTita Talbert, Wes Bellamy and Mike Osteen were absent.
“It’s really an essential piece to ensuring that our redevelopment efforts benefit our residents economically as well as in new units,” CRHA Chairwoman Julie Jones said when the board of directors approved the policy.
“It’s not a program yet. We’ll get to talk about that soon — how we turn this policy into a reality for the residents of our community — but we need to start with a policy.”
The policy has been in the works for over a year. CRHA hired Keith Swiney, of Motivation Inc., in the fall to update the authority’s existing Section 3 policy. CRHA paid $2,450 for the draft proposal.
The contract was at the recommendation of the Public Housing Association of Residents, CRHA Executive Director Grant Duffield said Monday.
“There’s all sorts of things you can do with Section 3. It’s not just construction, and it’s not just highly skilled construction jobs, either. [There are] opportunities for paid training, opportunities for just straight-up employment, resident contracting,” PHAR lead organizer Brandon Collins said in an interview.
Collins encouraged the CRHA board on Monday to fund a Section 3 coordinator position to implement the new policy.
A full-time position is currently in CRHA’s budget for redeveloping public housing. It is funded by a grant from the Kresge Foundation and unspent money recently approved by the City Council to go to CRHA for new purposes. The city funds also can go toward paying for a full-time employee to handle relocation of public housing residents during redevelopment.
Other new, full-time employees listed in CRHA’s budget include a maintenance coordinator and a communications position.
Crossings II debate
The CRHA board also discussed the idea of donating land for a “Crossings II” — an apartment building that effectively could end chronic homelessness in Charlottesville.
The public housing redevelopment committee, which includes PHAR and CRHA representatives, previously suggested that CRHA’s property on Avon Street would be a good location for the project.
Jones said that there had been excitement among the redevelopment committee to participate in the project.
Commissioner Audrey Oliver pushed back against that idea. She said that she wanted to see CRHA residents engaged before the Avon-Levy property became anything other than public housing.
The Avon Street property currently hosts Community Bikes and the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville.
“My goal is to make sure that we serve the residents that we have first. We have 376 units [households] that we need to serve first,” Oliver said.
The Crossings II proposal is for 50 one-room apartments for homeless individuals and 30 for low-income people. Virginia Supportive Housing would develop the building and administer services like counseling, case management and community building.
“The thing that attracted me to their organization was that they have people living there with supportive services,” Commissioner Betsy Roettger said. “We should look at what we could build without them, what we could build with them — the pros and cons of all of that.”
The next CRHA meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 25 in City Council Chambers.
More local news
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.
More by Emily Hays