Council briefed on affordable housing funds

A firm hired to conduct an audit of the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund presented preliminary results to City Council at their final meeting of the year in the early morning of December 21. 

HR&A had already completed an affordable housing plan as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative but Council paid an additional $165,000 to the firm for that audit, as well as creation of a program to ensure that the upcoming rewrite of the zoning code is inclusionary. The adopted plan called for the city to spend $10 million on housing for at least ten years. 

The Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund was created in 2007 as one tool for the city to increase the number of subsidized housing units. No audit has ever been conducted, and the city has struggled to hold on to housing coordinators, a position which has been vacant since the summer of 2020. 

“We went back to records going back to 2010 and we’re talking about just shy of $47 million here, the vast majority of $38 million being local and city housing trust fund money,” said Phillip Kash of HR&A. 

Kash said there are three major areas funded by the CAHF. They are development of new units and rehabilitation of existing ones, programs and operations of housing nonprofits, or city administration. 

The main beneficiary of city funding has been Piedmont Housing Alliance, followed by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. 

“That’s really tied to the Friendship Courts project in particular, and this really moves their position on this pretty significantly,” Kash said. 

The analysis also broke down how much return the city got on its investment. Rehabilitation and construction of single family homes are the most expensive per unit. New construction has been subsidized at a range between $20,000 and $45,000, with rehabilitation between $3,000 and $25,000 a unit. 

Kash said there are some initial lessons that can be learned. 

“Funding that was authorized by the city was not spent or followed up on,” Kash said. “While it was awarded, what it was awarded for was not necessarily ending up happening or wasn’t actually used. There are a couple of examples of projects being delayed or projects not being built yet. There were projects actually located outside the city. There’s a clear pattern of needing better reporting or monitoring.” 

A final report will be developed early next year. Recommendations will inform the next capital improvement program. 

Outgoing Mayor Nikuyah Walker said she wants funding to go be producing housing and not to support nonprofits.

“Keeping an organization afloat should not be our goal if they’re not delivering,” Walker said. “I think what ultimately once this report is finished, the community will see that we haven’t been mindful at all regarding the funds that we are allocating and we need to be more mindful.” 

A graph in the preliminary report showing what organizations have received

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 December 31, 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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