November 24, 2020: North Carolina Governor - "We are in danger"

  
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The number of COVID cases in Virginia continues to rise, with the seven-day average of new daily cases rising to 2,403 today, based on a one-day count today of 2,544. That’s the same one-day total from November 20, tying the one-day record. 

The seven-day average for new positive tests has risen to 7.4 percent statewide, up from 7.2 percent yesterday. 

In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are 37 new cases, bringing the seven-day average for new daily cases to 38. 

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper yesterday announced new mask requirements due to rising cases in that state. 

“We’ve passed the grim benchmark of losing more than 5,000 North Carolineans to COVID-19,” Cooper said. “We hold each of them in our memories and they will not be forgotten. This Thanksgiving week, our state and the country are reporting record high case numbers and hospitalizations.”

The new mask requirement goes into effect at 5 p.m. tomorrow in North Carolina. People must wear masks in all indoor settings. Previously the requirement only applied to businesses. 

“I have a stark warning for North Carolineans today,” Cooper said. “We are in danger. This is a pivotal moment in our fight against the coronavirus. Our actions now will determine the fate of many.” 

Hat tip to the newsletter Raleigh Convergence for the information. Check them out if you are in Wake County, North Carolina!  I learned about them through the Local Independent Online News Publishers group

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The consultant team hired to write up an affordable housing plan for Charlottesville and to complete the locality’s Comprehensive Plan update has not had as much public feedback as it did in a survey cycle earlier this year. Jennifer Koch is with the firm Rhodeside & Harwell. 

“We in the first round, taking the survey for example, we got 1,100 responses to that,” Koch said. “We’ve seen about 100 responses so far to the survey.”

However, Koch said this time around, participants are being asked to comment on draft materials. Feedback is being taken through December 2. (virtual meeting page)

The steering committee that is reviewing the work met last night to review the high-level principles of the affordable housing plan, which includes an aspirational $10 million a year commitment in city funding for affordable housing projects. Sarah Kirk is with the firm HR&A, a subcontractor hired to produce the affordable housing plan.

“There are three guiding principles that really underpin the whole plan and you will see those referred to throughout the draft plan,” Kirk said. “Those are racial equity, regional collaboration so collaboration completely particularly within the urban ring, but we’re talking about ways to collaborate with Albemarle County and with other regional jurisdictions, with UVA to jointly address affordable housing challenges and we talk about the need for a comprehensive approach. So we think about not only using land use or subsidies, but using both as well as tenants’ rights to the city can advance tenant’s rights.”

On the notion of regional cooperation, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is already spearheading a regional affordable housing partnership and is administering the state’s COVID-related Rental  and Mortgage Relief program. On March 10, UVA President Jim Ryan announced that up to 1,500 new units would be built on land controlled by UVA or its real estate foundation. (UVA Today article)

Much of the conversation dealt with that recommendation of $10 million in dedicated annual funding. Phil Kash is with HR&A. 

“We think consistency is key here, having an expected level of impact,” Kash said. “One, so the city can build its systems and lay plans around us, but also so nonprofit partners, CRHA and the entire ecosystem of affordable housing can build and scale up to capacity to deploy this this money effectively.”

In the past two months, Council has finalized two major agreements. That includes $3 million in funding for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority for the Crescent Halls renovation and new units at South First Street, and about $5.5 million in funding for the first phase of the Friendship Court redevelopment being undertaken by Piedmont Housing Alliance.

One councilor made this brief comment.

“I’m just going to say that we have to be realistic,” said City Councilor Heather Hill. The city is currently facing the limits of its borrowing capacity.  

The panel also discussed the role of homeownership in the plan. We’ll have more from this meeting in a newsletter coming up later this week. 

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The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority met last night for its monthly meeting. Executive Director John Sales said that for the first time in a long time, the vast majority of tenants no longer owe back rent thanks to an $80,000 payment from City Council out of its share of CARES Act funding. 

“That’s like probably the first time in 15 or 20 years that the account balances are at zero,” Sales said. The two who do have account balances are working out a payment plan with CRHA officials as part of a new eviction abatement program. 

Speaking of the two CRHA development projects, the city has issued building permits for both Crescent Halls and South First Street Phase One. Dave Norris is the CRHA’s redevelopment director and he said the next step is to complete financing. 

“We’ve cleared those hurdles which is huge and once we have closed on the projects, we’ll be able to get started on the construction,” Norris said. 

Norris said they are aiming for a mid-December date to close the financing deal, which includes the $3 million in city payments as well as low-income housing tax credits. (LIHTC). 

“That’s mostly due to a last minute delay caused by some bureaucratic issues with [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] but we’re working through them,” Norris said. 

Planning for a second phase of redevelopment at Phase 2 has been taking place all year and Norris said work has begun to get HUD-required paperwork done in advance. Negotiations between the general contractor are underway to ensure that at least some residents can be hired for the construction through a process known as Section 3. 

“Part of that conversation involves getting a little more specific on their Section 3 hiring commitments so that our Section 3 coordinator, Joy Johnson, has a clearer idea of roughly how many positions and what kind of skills and trades they are looking to hire from among the over 80 people she has in the pipeline for Section 3 employment,” Norris said.”

The CRHA Board will next meet in late January. 

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Today in meetings, the Albemarle Planning Commission will meet at 6 p.m. and will hold a public hearing for on a special use permit for outdoors displays at a former restaurant in the Rio/29 intersection that is being converted into a car dealership. They’ll also take action on an altered form of the Breezy Hill subdivision in the Village of Rivanna. Southern Development has lowered the total number of units from 160 to 130 to try to assuage opposition from nearby residents. 

In other meetings:

  • Charlottesville’s Police Civilian Review Board meets at 5 p.m. (meeting info)

  • Do you have questions about the C’Ville Plans Together initiative? The consultant is holding office hours to answer questions and take feedback beginning at 5:30 p.m. (meeting info)