Negotiations are beginning between the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and a development team that includes Riverbend Development and the Virginia Community Development Corp. to modernize the city’s public housing neighborhoods.

The CRHA Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to allow Grant Duffield, executive director of CRHA, to work with the team to draft a memorandum of understanding, which will outline the timelines and roles for the project.

“Just think about all the others who’ve tried. They got to certain points and then it just stopped, for whatever reason. We got it,” said Wes Bellamy, who represents the City Council on the CRHA board.

“We never got this far. I was on the board in 1999. I came off in 2005,” said Audrey Oliver, who is the treasurer of the board and a resident commissioner.

All but five of the 376 public housing units in the city were built between 1965 and 1981. Since then, federal funding for such neighborhoods has decreased, which has made maintenance of housing difficult.

Conversations about redevelopment began seriously in 2008, when Charlottesville’s Public Housing Association of Residents wrote a bill of rights that ensured those living in public housing would continue to have a place to live.

In the first phase of public housing redevelopment, the Riverbend Development team will build new housing for residents of Crescent Halls on green space in the 900 and 1000 blocks of South First Street and a parking lot at 405 Levy Ave. They then will redevelop the Crescent Halls site itself.

“As much as redevelopment is exciting, seeing new buildings come up, seeing those relationships [between the housing authority, residents and others], that’s what gives me chills,” Duffield said.

The development team includes BRW Architects, the firm that designed The Crossings at Fourth and Preston. The Crossings has 60 studio apartments — half of which are reserved for people who have experienced homelessness, and the remainder go to low-income individuals.

The Crossings has contributed to a visible drop in the number of people who are chronically homeless in the region.

“One team — a local team — really rose to the top. Their generosity and compassion for the program stood out and made the selection pretty straightforward and easy, from the committee’s perspective,” commissioner Mike Osteen said.

Osteen is also a member of the CRHA redevelopment committee, which requested proposals and recommended Riverbend and VCDC.

Representatives of Riverbend were unavailable for comment late Monday.

The Board of Commissioners also discussed local administration of housing choice vouchers, a federal program that subsidizes rents for very low-income families. Changes to administration include more responsive customer service and adopting a points-based rather than lottery system for who receives vouchers.

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Emily Hays

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.