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Website to list affordable housing in Charlottesville area

People looking for affordable housing in the Charlottesville area soon will have a new website to help them in their search.

The Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership is launching an affordable housing locator service and resource website in November.

The multiple listing service system will list housing units for sale and for rent that meet certain income levels, which will be decided on soon by CVRHP committee members. People will be able to use the site to search for housing based on their income level.

“Personally, I’m super excited about it,” said Keith Smith, chairman of the committee. “This is kind of something we’ve been pushing uphill for quite some time.”

At a recent virtual meeting of the partnership, committee members got an update on the website, which will roll out Nov. 12 as part of the group’s Zoom Conference Fall Speaker Series on affordable housing.

Susan Stimart, housing coordinator for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, said the genesis for the website was to help get affordable proffered units into the market.

Proffered affordable housing units come about when developers ask for special-use permits and rezonings, but some proffered for-sale affordable homes end up being sold at market rate when an eligible, qualified purchaser is not found in time.

“This will help any developer with affordable product reach the appropriate customer base,” Stimart said.

Chip Boyles, executive director of the TJPDC, said the maximum for-sale price and rental amounts for the listings still need to be decided.

“What that boils down to — which we’ve been talking about since we began the Regional Housing Partnership — is what are we calling affordable housing?,” he said. “No matter who you talk to, there are somewhat different definitions.”

Area median income for Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson counties and Charlottesville is $93,900 per household, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Area median income for Louisa County is $74,300.

Committee member Sunshine Mathon, the Piedmont Housing Alliance’s executive director, said the generally accepted limit for rental housing is 60% of AMI and for homeownership is 80% of AMI, but that it can vary by jurisdiction and family size.

“It’s not as straightforward in some ways, but I think it’s worth using those as two cap limits and then filtering it further underneath that,” he said.

A small, ad-hoc committee will be meeting to decide the maximum unit prices ahead of the website launch.

Some of the units that will be listed will be controlled by income limits and buyer eligibility verifications, but the only formal listing restrictions will be price caps.

Listing low-priced, non-income-restricted housing in one place where people who flip houses can easily see it could be a huge drawback, Boyles said.

“It is a concern of how it won’t be taken advantage of,” he said. “Properties are listed anyway, so it’s currently happening, but yes, that is one of the downsides of putting what some consider is great opportunities for flipping in place.”

The partnership has been working on the site with the software company Emphasys, which has been used for housing search sites for more than 30 other states and communities, including Virginia.

“They’re developing the tool for us now for both rental and homeownership,” Boyles said. “It should have a trial run ready in October so that we can play with it, see what it needs, see where it needs to be tweaked, so that in early November, we’ll be able to roll this out with the final product and really begin marketing this service.”


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