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Piedmont Housing Alliance awarded $4.5M in federal funding

The Charlottesville-based Piedmont Housing Alliance has secured $4.5 million in federal funding to support affordable housing in Central Virginia.

The news was announced by Virginia Democrats Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine as part of a package of $15.4 million awarded to Virginia-based organizations working to close the housing gap in the commonwealth.

“Every Virginian deserves the stability and security that affordable housing provides, but sadly, the lack of available affordable housing is one of the top issues we hear about from Virginians,” the Democratic senators said in a joint statement released Tuesday. “We’re glad this federal funding is headed to communities in Virginia to help expand the availability of affordable housing options and make it easier for families to have a reliable roof overhead.”

Housing unavailability and unaffordability have grown into a nationwide epidemic.

A lack of inventory has left many renters without the opportunity to buy or even find a house — which is as true in Virginia as anywhere else in the U.S.

According to researchers at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, which studies population demographics, before the Great Recession in the late 2000s, Virginia was building roughly 60,000 new residences annually; today that number is below 40,000.

And high interest rates are discouraging even those who can find a house from purchasing it.

This housing crisis has overwhelmingly hurt low-income households.

In the commonwealth, 24% of renter households qualify as “extremely low income” and there is a shortage of 174,187 affordable and available units for low-income renters, according to the latest figures from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The pain has been more pronounced for those in costly cities such as Charlottesville.

With a median price tag of $445,900, homes for sale in the Charlottesville area hit an “all-time high” by the end of June this year, according to Anne Burroughs, president-elect of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors.

That’s more than $28,000 more expensive than prices compared to the second quarter of 2022 — a 7% increase, according to the association’s second-quarter report. A “chronically low inventory” combined with a “robust” pool of buyers has pushed up the price of homes and slowed the real estate market.

Compared to a year ago, there were 232 fewer sales in the second quarter of 2023.

The city of Charlottesville is currently reviewing updates to its zoning policies to increase density, which many advocates have argued will increase the inventory of available houses and help more people find a roof to put over their heads. Detractors, however, have argued that the sort of density the rezoning would create would not benefit residential but rather other property types.

“[Charlottesville] is looking for more density, and they’re trying to get the biggest bang for their buck by opening up a lot of the zoning to increase housing, adding more townhouses, duplexes and multiplex homes,” S. Lisa Herndon, president of the local Realtors association, told The Daily Progress in August. “That’s one I hope will open up and make homes more affordable by increasing the inventory.”

The number of people in Charlottesville who fell into homelessness has grown by 25% since 2018, according to Anthony Haro, executive director of Blue Ridge Area Coalition for the Homeless, which coordinates and leads collaborative efforts to address homelessness.

The Piedmont Housing Alliance is a nonprofit group and the successor of the Thomas Jefferson Housing Improvement Commission, which was founded in 1983 by Jane Saunier as part of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

Its service area includes the counties of Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson as well as the city of Charlottesville.

Those services include:

The management of 14 properties in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle and Nelson counties.

A U.S. Treasury-certified lending program.

Community Housing Development Organization-certified housing development.

And a U.S. Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counseling program which provides one-on-one coaching for homebuying, credit improvement, debt reduction, savings programs, fair housing and foreclosure prevention.

The $4.5 million headed to the Piedmont Housing Alliance was awarded through the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund which finances the preservation, rehabilitation, development and purchase of affordable housing and community service facilities such as day care centers, workforce development centers and health care clinics.

The Piedmont Housing Alliance received the most of any of the organizations included in the latest funding announcement made Tuesday.

The other recipients include:

Virginia Community Development Fund in Richmond: $4 million.

Virginia Community Capital in Richmond: $3.75 million.

And People Incorporated Housing Group in Abingdon: $3.15 million.


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