February 15, 2023: Albemarle Supervisors briefed on utility connection rebate program for affordable housing; UVA selects five groups to submit proposals
Plus: Want to design a poster for the 50th anniversary of the Downtown City Market?
Going by the months, we are now 3/24ths of the way through 2023. How does that measure up mathematically? It’s the 45th day of the year, meaning we are 12.6 percent of the way to 2024. Who’s counting?
I’m Sean Tubbs, host and producer of Charlottesville Community Engagement. This is somehow the 498th edition of this program, created to bring information to the community that otherwise was not being assembled. And if the math doesn’t work out? Help me check it.
On today’s show:
The University of Virginia has selected five entities to put in proposals to develop two sites for affordable housing, including the Piedmont Housing Alliance
The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors releases its snapshot of the fourth quarter of 2022
The city of Charlottesville seeks entries for a poster contest for the 50th anniversary of the downtown City Market
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors give feedback on a proposal to reimburse developers of affordable housing for their water and sewer connections
First shout-out: Homelessness in Charlottesville is a Housing Problem
Want to learn how to help our unhoused neighbors find affordable permanent housing? LivableCville is hosting a webinar, Homelessness in Charlottesville is a Housing Problem, on March 1 at 6:30 p.m. The online event will feature Dr. Gregg Colburn, assistant professor of real estate at the University of Washington and co-author of the groundbreaking recent book "Homelessness is a Housing Problem." He will discuss his research into the causes of homelessness and solutions. The discussion will explore connections between homelessness, the Charlottesville area housing market, and the Cville Plans and Albemarle County 2044 projects. Sign up on EventBrite.
Nonprofits have been asked to work on UVA housing projects
For ages, I’ve been checking the website of the University of Virginia Foundation for information on the next steps for a plan to build between a thousand and 1,500 below-market units on property that either the Foundation or UVA owns. After months of looking and not finding anything new, I asked if there was anything new to report.
The University of Virginia has asked a total of five entities to respond to requests for proposals to develop two sites for housing units that will be rented or sold to households with qualified incomes.
“After careful evaluation of each respondent on the criteria outlined in the [Request for Qualifications], which included qualifications and experience, project approach, and financial/transaction approach, the review committee recommended inviting three teams be invited to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) for each of the two initial sites,” reads the website for the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships.
The two sites are a two-acre site on Wertland Street. The other is a 12-acre site on Mimosa Drive known currently as Piedmont that is off of Fontaine Avenue.
The Piedmont Housing Alliance has been asked to put in a proposal for both projects. The agency is currently redeveloping Friendship Court, building affordable apartments at Southwood, and is seeking financing for two projects on Park Street in Charlottesville.
The two other entities asked to submit a proposal for Piedmont
Wertland Street are Community Housing Partners (CHP) and Enterprise Community Development (ECD).
CHP is based in Christiansburg and was founded in 1975 and has grown to be a provider of housing across the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest Virginia. ECD is based in Baltimore and their website claims the organization works on projects across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The two other entities asked to submit a proposal for Wertland and 10th Streets are AHC and Preservation of Affordable Housing.
AHC is based in Arlington and was also founded in 1975. They have worked on projects in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Preservation of Affordable Housing is based in Boston and their website claims they have worked on projects in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
All entities have until March 23 to turn in their proposal and the finalists will be selected in the summer. A site visit was held on January 30, according to Fred Missel, director of design and development for the University of Virginia Foundation.
The developer will be responsible for preparing the plans and getting all of the necessary approvals, including archaeological studies. They’ll also have to have experience getting financing through Virginia Housing.
Other development requirements include:
Deliver a moderate to high-density mixed income housing community
Offer a maximum number of affordable housing units, with an emphasis on creating mixed-income communities that include, but are not limited to, units in the 30 percent to 60 percent area median income range
Coordinate with UVA/UVAF and local jurisdictions on the utilities and infrastructure that will serve the development, and coordinate on the design aesthetic that interacts with the surrounding community.
Demolish the existing improvements as needed to accommodate the Project, with the exception of historic structures (applicable only at Piedmont).
The third site is at the University of Virginia Foundation’s North Fork Discovery site. That project has been delayed until after a rezoning process is completed in Albemarle County. No timetable for when that might happen.
CAAR releases market report for 4th quarter of 2023
While this is a newsletter, I don’t call what I produce “news” for many reasons. One of them is that it takes me to get to everything. The following was released nine days ago, but it ends up being relevant today.
The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors has reported fewer sales in the fourth quarter of 2022.
“There were 917 homes sold in the CAAR market in the fourth quarter of 2022, which is a 25 percent reduction in sales from this time last year, or 311 fewer sales,” reads one of the takeaways from the quarterly report.
The report also documents that prices continue to increase in all six localities CAAR tracks.
“At $400,000, the fourth quarter median sales price in the CAAR market climbed 8% from the fourth quarter last year, a gain of about $30,000,” the report continues.
However, the number of units on the market at the end of the 2022 increased to 740, up from 436 at the end of 2021. The report attributes the slowdown in sales to increases in the interest rates for mortgages.
For the full details, view the report on CAAR’s website.
City Parks & Rec seeking entries for post to mark 50th anniversary of City Market
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of Charlottesville’s downtown City Market and the city’s Parks and Recreation is looking for help to promote the event. They’re asking for people to design a “fun and fresh” poster.
“Charlottesville Parks & Recreation will select 1 winning poster design that depicts a combination of engaging graphics, informative messaging, and regional or market identity. The winning artist will be awarded $500 and bragging rights,” reads the call for entries.
The deadline is March 12, 2023 and people can submit more than one entry.
The market operates April to November on space rented from the Woodard Company, who in turn rents it from the Charlottesville Parking Center. The city market used to operate on the city-owned lot next door, but moved to the more level space after a city-requested development by Woodard called West 2nd was withdrawn following a denial from the city’s Board of Architectural Review.
For more information on the poster contest, visit the city’s website.
Second shout-out: WTJU seeks hosts for classical music
WTJU 91.1 FM is a volunteer-powered radio station, staffed by hundreds of volunteer hosts sharing their passion for music. You can become a volunteer host, too! WTJU's classical department is especially looking for new volunteers. You just need to be curious and excited about music, but no previous radio experience is necessary or expected. Learn more and apply at https://www.wtju.net/get-involved/
Third shout-out: Do you have a pandemic related story?
Additionally, here’s something new. It’s been 35 months since the pandemic officially began in March 2020. How has your life changed? Do you want to tell your story? Consider submitting to Charlottesville Community Engagement, either written or voiced in your own words. We’re already beginning to forget that time. I know I am. So, drop me a line if you’re interested in capturing your thoughts.
Albemarle housing briefed on grant program to incentivize creation of below-market units
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted a plan called Housing Albemarle in July 2021 that is intended to increase the number of housing units in the county. That came with a goal of requiring a minimum of 20 percent of new units to qualify as “affordable.” That’s up from 15 percent in the current policy which applies to units that need rezonings or special use permits.
“At that time, the Board delayed full implementation of the policy until a package of the developer incentives could be identified and approved that would support developer efforts to meet the new goals of that policy,” said Stacy Pethia, the county’s housing policy manager.
Supervisors have held previous work sessions on how to put together incentives in February 2022 and in May 2022. Out of those came a resolution of intent to amend the zoning ordinance to create an affordable dwelling unit program. Pethia said a work session on that topic will take place later this spring.
All of this is based on a 2019 study by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission on that assessed the region’s housing needs.
“In that study it was identified that the county will need a total of 10,070 affordable housing units by the year 2040 to meet the housing needs of current residents as well as projects residents in the future,” Pethia said.
Of that, Pethia said about 9,000 of those units are needed for households below 80 percent of the annual area median income. That figure is currently $111,200 a year.
One tool for affordability would be to create a grant program that would be separate from the affordable dwelling unit program. (read the draft) (other materials)
“The grant program is supported by an increase of property tax revenue to Albemarle County generated by an incentivized project, and may be provided to affordable housing projects that achieve one or more of the affordable housing objectives outlined in Housing Albemarle,” reads the introduction to the draft that went before Supervisors on February 1.
Pethia said such a program is authorized under Virginia code by §15.2-958. Property owners who receive funding are required to designate twenty percent as affordable, with the definition of affordable up to each locality.
“Housing Albemarle really focuses on rental housing on households with incomes of 60 percent of area median income,” Pethia said. “That is really for a family of four about $88,000.”
Eligible projects would:
Have more than ten units
Be located within the development area
Provide a minimum of 20 percent of units below market
Ten percent of units must be accessible or convertible to Americans with Disabilities Act standards
Have same building materials in both market rate and below-market units
Anyone who sought to take advantage would need to fill out a form. (draft form)
But what form would the grant take?
“It would offer a rebate to real property taxes over a ten year period and the amount of those property tax rebates would be equal to one hundred percent of the cost of the water and sewer connection fees,” Pethia said.
That’s not a low number. The current hook-up fee to the Albemarle County Service Authority is $13,470 per unit. ACSA executive director Gary O’Connell said in an email today that number is likely to increase due to a number of capital improvement projects.
Under this program, the developer would enter into a performance agreement with the county which would require annual reporting. Pethia said Chesterfield County has a similar program in place.
“Through their program they have incentivized 114 affordable units since 2019,” Pethia said. “Their program has been currently put on hold because they want to go assess it and reevaluate it and see it how its working and see if they can make any changes to improve it.”
Supervisor Ned Gallaway expressed concern the grant program may not provide the certainty that developers want to make sure their project can afford the affordability. Too much would depend on the circumstances of each project.
“It would likely always be project specific,” Gallaway said. “You might have somebody that wants the tap fees rebated but you might want somebody else that wants expedited review. Maybe time is more important than something else in that particular case.”
Gallaway said he would support the project if it could be demonstrated to work, but he was not certain as of this work session. Pethia said this is the beginning of the conversation.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said adding this as an option would provide the Board with more information on future rents as elected officials consider rezonings and special use permits.
“We often have applicants that come before us with developments and we say, well how much are you going to charge for rent, how much is this, and the answer is always ‘we don’t know yet,’” McKeel said. “It seems like to me that we’ll get some clarity around that going forward with this.”
Gallaway had a concern that a developer might not get enough to cover the cost of providing the units below market. He suggested just providing a tax rebate rather than tie it to a reimbursement for water and sewer connections.
“My concern would be do this grant program, we have a program come before us and we find out that the water connection fees covered 80 percent of whatever the additional cost is and then we have to provide additional tax rebate or something in addition to that amount to make it flush, to make it even,” Gallaway said. “That’s what we were saying we would do. We’re not going to cover 80 percent of the cost increase. It’s not an incentive program if it doesn’t cover the full cost increase.”
Deputy County Executive Doug Walker acknowledged there was a challenge in providing certainty, but that every application would be reviewed.
“And so where that number is could be actually reconciled on a project by project basis,” Walker said. “Getting the proforma, staff analysis, sitting down, penciling it out, and coming up with a recommendation on whether it does, or if it does, at what level, and making that recommendation. That certainly could be a way to try to overthink what I think is the concern.”
Supervisor Ann Mallek said she supported reimbursing tap fees with rebates because it would give the same benefit to all eligible projects.
“As opposed to something where you have 39 different math scenarios for different builders who have different business models and some can leverage outside money and some are expecting the county to pay for everything,” Mallek said.
The final question for Supervisors was whether there should be a cap on rebates for a given fiscal year. Supporters all agreed based on an idea it would be difficult to budget properly otherwise.
A second work session will be held to finalize input from Supervisors before the project goes to a public hearing. That work session will possibly be held at the same time the affordable dwelling unit ordinance is discussed. The exact schedule? Keep checking the Week Ahead.
Albemarle is No. 1 in Virginia for land under conservation easement, Staff Reports, Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 14, 2023
ACRJ getting closer to starting renovations, Felicity Taylor, CBS19, February 14, 2023
Survey shows that the majority of Charlottesville residents want to walk, bike or take public transit — but don’t feel safe doing so, Erin O’Hare, February 14, 2023
Meta information about the newsletter for #498:
This one was going to come out tomorrow, but it’s ready to come out in the later afternoon. There’s no shortage of information to write about, and my time is best used getting these out as I can. Tomorrow there will be a new set of stories! Or maybe Friday. Every time the sun shows up in the sky, it’s a different kind of day, making this a very unique information product.
But is it news? What is news? I don’t know anymore, and it doesn’t matter. I’m a journalist, a reporter, a writer, a collector of facts of figures with experience putting them into context. And thanks to the support of over 500 people or other entities, I’m able to make this my time. In exchange, newsletters as they come out.
If you want to join that number and help me expand, please do. If not, then don’t. It’s as simple as that. I don’t believe in begging people for money or introducing a threat that somehow the work won’t get done. That does not fit my ethos, my ethics, and I will not sing that in Ethel Merman’s voice.
Substack subscriptions, though, are matched by Ting, which I think is worth knowing. Maybe that will help you decide? There’s a $5 a month level, a $50 a year level, or a $200 year level. The latter gives you shout-outs!
If you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:
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Thanks for Wraki for much of the music and the Fundamental Grang for whatever it is that that entity does. I also keep forgetting to mention that the opening track comes from P.J. Sykes. I commissioned him for a track in 2006 or 2007 or so. And here we are.