Albemarle to consider investing $325,000 for Piedmont Housing to redevelop Park’s Edge

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will support the Piedmont Housing Alliance in its efforts to to purchase the 96-unit Park’s Edge apartment complex on Whitewood Road.

“One important aspect of affordable housing is preserving what we already have,” said Ron White, the county’s chief of housing.

Park’s Edge is on Whitewood Boulevard, part of a transportation corridor that links Albemarle High School with U.S. 29 via Greenbrier Drive.

The community center at Park’s Edge was partially constructed through a federal Community Development Block Grant.

Park’s Edge is currently owned by a for-profit LLC associated with the nonprofit AHIP.  AHIP currently manages the property but its board of directors is seeking to concentrate on its efforts to rehabilitate existing homes.

The project was built in the 1970’s as Whitewood Village with [federal subsidies]. When it came to the end of its last compliance period in the late 1990’s, AHIP rehabilitated the four apartment buildings using tax credits from HUD. White said that came after an attempt to convert the 96-units to a tenant-owned and managed facility.

“We realized that the capacity for tenant-owned and managed property was not the best way to go and converted [a] planning grant to determine the feasibility of the acquisition and rehab,” White said. With some financial assistance from the county, AHIP was able to purchase the property in 2002.

“They opted for a 30-year compliance period of affordability on the units, but at the end of the 15-year term of the tax credit deal, the [original] investors are out of the picture and the property often rolls back to the ownership. They can restructure the financing and they can keep it as it is or in this case they can sell to another entity who may be able to reinvest and make other improvements to the property.”

The executive directors of AHIP and PHA went to Supervisor Diantha McKeel and county staff this spring.

“They are seeking county support for the project, for the acquisition and proposed rehab,” White said. “That not only includes written support from the county but financial support. That’s an area we believe that on the financial side, further due diligence is needed about whether we can offer the financial support.”

Mathon and Jacobs had the opportunity to present their case to the Board of Supervisors on October 3, 2018.

“AHIP is a home-repair nonprofit and we’ve been working with the county since 1976,” Jacobs said. “We actually got out start after Hurricane Camille in 1969 cleaning up after that so that was our origin story.”

AHIP is currently working to rehabilitate homes in the Alberene community in southern Albemarle. Jacobs said the organization has decided to focus exclusively on home repair.  At the same time, Piedmont Housing Alliance is seeking to expand the number of units it manages.

“Piedmont Housing Alliance has been a part of the region for the last 35 years and though the specific roles the organization has taken on has evolved over time, it has stayed true to its mission of creating housing opportunities and fostering community through financial education, lending and equitable development,” Mathon said. “The opportunity to partner with AHIP on the acquisition of Park’s Edge aligns perfectly with our strategic, business and mission-related goals to grow our organization over the coming years.”

Mathon said the entire nation needs to address the aging nature of properties that are subsidized for low-income communities. Mathon said a needs assessment established it would take about $4 million of work to renovate the four buildings with new roofs, siding, appliance, temperature control systems and more.

“Given that the rents are reduced far-below market-rate in order for it to serve the low-income families who live there, those rents are sufficient to operate the property and provide a basic level of maintenance, but they do not and never will build the reserves needed for such a deep rehab,” Mathon said.

Mathon said PHA will pursue low-income housing tax credits as well as new low-interest debt. To help with the application for the Virginia Housing Development Authority, the organization wants a letter of support from Albemarle County. Specifically, Mathon said the county’s support could help demonstrate the project is worthy of the VHDA’s REACH program.

“But [VHDA] staff also said they would not consider investing REACH money in Park’s Edge unless there’s a substantial local investment additionally,” Mahon said. “We are asking for the allocation of $325,000 toward Park’s Edge rehabilitation. This will precipitate a cascade of other funding sources, leveraging other funds at a 20 to 1 ratio.”

Mathon said work on the cooling systems would help address county goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If the effort is successful, PHA would enter into a partnership with a for-profit company that would receive tax credits in exchange for investment in the property. This is a similar arrangement to how many communities with lower-than-market rates are able to function.

Supervisors agreed to send a letter of support but want county staff to do due diligence on the financials of the proposal.

Supervisor Ann Mallek asked if PHA was capable of taking on the additional units at a time when they are already seeking to expand the total number of units at Friendship Court in downtown Charlottesville.

“We have been working over the last six months to bolster the back end staffing to make sure the on-site staffing have what they need,” Mathon said. “Over the last six months we have hired a lead maintenance staff, which we have not previously had.”

Other new positions include a compliance specialist and a new managerial position for support services that may be needed.

“All of that is in preparation for growth,” Mathon said.

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