Regional planners crafting regional affordable housing plan

The Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership met earlier this month and got updates on various initiatives underway.  One of them involves helping outlying communities write policies for ensuring the existence of housing affordable to people with lower incomes. Christine Jacobs is the interim director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

“We are creating a draft Comprehensive Plan chapter for each of the jurisdictions within the planning district commission,” Jacobs said. “The City of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.” 

Jacobs said there will also be a chapter in the regional plan that offers strategies on how the localities can work together to increase the overall supply of housing.

“We now have a draft of all six of the locality chapters,” Jacobs said. “We have been working directly with staff specifically in Albemarle and Charlottesville since they have been doing so much work on their end with their affordable housing plans.” 

Jacobs said the regional plan will also include a map which shows the areas in each locality where zoning exists for multifamily buildings and other dense residential uses. A draft of the regional plan will come to the RHP’s executive committee in May and will come to the full RHP board in June. The plans will be presented to localities in the summer and will go to the TJPDC Board in August. 

Albemarle’s Housing Plan next goes to the Albemarle Planning Commission in May. Charlottesville’s City Council endorsed an affordable housing plan earlier this month. 

“Basically we’re taking their very large plans and condensing it into our chapter so that they are a part of this entire regional plan,” Jacobs said. 

Supervisor Diantha McKeel asked where the University of Virginia’s housing plans fit into the region. On March 10, 2020, UVA announced a ten year plan to build up to 1,500 units on land currently owned by UVA or its real estate foundation. Colette Sheehy, senior vice president for operations and government relations at UVA, gave an update.

“We did a solicitation and we have hired a consultant to help us, her name is Gina Merrett,” Sheehy said. 

Merrett is with Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures

“This is not a consultant who will build affordable housing for us,” Sheehy said. “This is a consultant to guide the University through the process to get to the point where we would do a [request for proposals] to the developer community to build affordable housing.”

Sheehy said UVA’s main contribution will come in the form of land and that a community engagement process is being developed now. 

During the meeting, members of the RHP were asked to give a “value proposition” for the body. Jacobs went first with her thoughts.

“I think by having a regional body that’s looking at this issue comprehensively, how it relates to transit and transportation, how it relates to equity and health, I think we put ourselves in a position to be considered to administer the Emergency Rent and Mortgage relief program,” Jacobs said. The TJPDC administered over $1.6 million in relief in the second half of calendar year 2020.

The TJPDC administered the program for its first six months

Architect Greg Powe went next.

“This is a regional crisis,” Powe said. “It affects all of us. This is the only group I’m aware of that brings together all of us that are impacted by and can positively resolve the problem. I think there’s incredible value to have the private sector interfacing with the municipalities and with the nonprofits interacting with the institutions.” 

Chris Henry of the Stony Point Development Group followed.

“We’re one community and this group represents that community and how we come together to solve that problem so I think that’s the fundamental essence of the Regional Housing Partnership,” Henry said. 

RHP Chair Keith Smith of Fluvanna County said he has been discussing the possibility of bringing Augusta County and Waynesboro into the group. The TJPDC has worked with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission on planning for a transit route now known as the Afton Express. 

Charlottesville City Councilor Lloyd Snook played off of that theme.

“A value of doing this Regional Housing Partnership through the TJPDC also ties in with the Regional Transit Partnership,” Snook said. “I’ve always said these days, affordable housing for the Charlottesville market is in Waynesboro or Buckingham County. It’s not in Charlottesville. It’s really not in Albemarle very much.”

City Councilor Michael Payne agreed.

“There’s really only been one project since I’ve been on Council where Council hasn’t approved greater density than what’s allowed by-right so I definitely agree that something is going to need to happen regionally because the supply-side solutions, if only Charlottesville is doing supply-side solutions, it’s going to have a much smaller impact than regionally,” Payne said. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the March 30, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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