Habitat provides Southwood details to Albemarle Supervisors

This summer, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has been updating various committees in Albemarle on their efforts to redevelop the Southwood Mobile Home Park as a mixed-use community. The Board of Supervisors approved the first phase of a rezoning in August 2019, and they got an update at their meeting on September 15. There are a lot of details, and if you want all of them, I recommend watching the full presentation. (watch)

But here is a summary beginning with planner Megan Nedostup with the basic info. 

“Habitat acquired the property in 2007,” Nedostup said. “1,500 residents live there in 341 mobiles homes.”

Supervisors adopted a resolution to work with Habitat on redevelopment in 2016 and an action plan in 2018 that included financial contributions from the county. 

“Involved with that approval we appropriated $675,000 to Southwood to assist with the rezoning application,” Nedostup said. “In 2019 the performance agreement was approved. $1.5 million for construction of 75 affordable units. $300,000 for 80 or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). And $1.4 million over ten years in tax rebates.”

The rezoning approved a total of 458 housing units on undeveloped land along Old Lynchburg Road. Site plans are coming in for each of the 12 blocks in this stage of the development. Piedmont Housing Alliance is building the LIHTC units and aim to exceed the total by constructing 121 apartments in three buildings. 

Nedostup said Habitat has met one milestone of the performance agreement and has received $100,000 for planning work. Another $300,000 payment for securing the LIHTC credits is being processed. 

“Milestone 1C included $200,000 when Habitat demonstrates it has secured funding for 57 affordable units and that one is in process,” Nedostup said. 

Other milestones are also in the process of being met. Outside of the performance agreement, Albemarle County also partnered with Habitat on a $1 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). 

Screenshot from Habitat’s September 15, 2021 presentation

In his presentation, Habitat CEO Dan Rosenweig showed a fly-through video of what the development will look like when it comes together. The idea has been to build a new community along new roadways. 

“We worked closely with Atlantic Builders to design a new product typology so that this streetscape created a really great walk from deeper into the neighborhood toward the neighborhood downtown,” Rosensweig said. “[These are] townhomes that are two stories in the front and then they take advantage of the grade to be three stories behind so what it appears are townhomes that are really human scale.”

Rosensweig reminded the Board that the Planning Commission had had concerns about whether there would be enough affordable units in the first phase. 

“There was concern among Planning Commissioners about the ultimate amount of affordable housing in phase one and whether that would be enough housing to take care of the residents who exist at Southwood now as we move phase by phase but also to create new affordable housing in the region,” Rosensweig said. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job with 335 total units in phase one with 207 of them affordable,” Rosensweig said. “Habitat is going to build 86 of them. That’s going to be almost exclusively homeownership but there are some residents who will not LIHTC and who will not want to purchase a home, so we’ve committed to making some deeply affordable rentals available interspersed in the neighborhood as well.”

Rosensweig said he estimated about 100 families will be rehoused as part of the first phase. Unfortunately, some families have had to be moved on a temporary basis due to poor environmental conditions that he said Habitat has inherited from the previous owner.

“Instead of one or two mobile homes hooked up to a septic tank there were ten, and so those leach fields are extending into the areas of construction so out of an abundance of caution and safety for residents we are in the process of moving the first 25 families from the area immediately adjacent to the construction site to the other side of the mobile home park in trailers where there are served by sewer,” Rosensweig said. 

There are about fifty more families that will need to be rehoused due to the next phase of construction. Rosensweig said a rehousing task force has been formed to identify solutions. There are other environmental issues. 

“There’s also a remediation task force that has formed to deal with some of the things that were a little bit hard to dig,” Rosensweig said. “For example, the mobile home park has been on electric for many years but originally there was an oil tank installed under every trailer. As we started to move them, we expected one in ten to leak. If they were decent material to start with, they wouldn’t leak. But all ten of the first ones that we dug up leaked, which suggests to us that all 341 are going to be removed.” 

Rosensweig said Habitat has worked with Albemarle and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to remove the damaged sections of soil where it has been encountered. 

“It’s kind of like cutting out a tumor,”  Rosensweig said. “You remove the bad stuff and also dirt around it, stockpile it, and remove it. The site is pristine now but it has cost a lot more than we expected.” 

Screenshot from Habitat’s September 15, 2021 presentation

Rosensweig said the Board of Supervisors can expect to see the next phase of the rezoning. Habitat will ask to extend the rules for the existing zoning and its code of development across the whole park. 

“More like a zoning amendment than a rezoning,” Rosensweig said. 

The goal is to submit the application by mid-October. 

Supervisor Liz Palmer has been on the Board since 2014 and wanted to make sure all of the steps of the performance agreement are tracked. 

“I’m wondering going forward on future projects how we compare what we’re getting for the amount of money that we’re putting in because these numbers are hard to keep track of overtime.”

Stacy Pethia, the county’s housing coordinator, said it is too early to be able to break down a cost-per-unit, but that will be available as the projects go through the many variables involved in a construction project.

“The cost as we’ve learned over the past year continues to significantly change and has a significant impact on the project,” Pethia said. 

Rosenweig had an exact figure for the roughly $4 million in Albemarle’s investment.

“That works out to about $19,000 a unit,” Rosensweig said. “The cost for each of our homes on average is probably looking because of COVID price spikes in the mid $200K’s and so your funding represents a little less than ten percent of each of the units.”

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 September 23, 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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