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November 03, 2008

Planning Commissions Review Joint Task Force Draft Recommendations

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On October 28, 2008, the Planning Commissions for Charlottesville and Albemarle County held a joint meeting to discuss efforts to create more affordable living choices and to review the report by the Charlottesville-Albemarle-University of Virginia Joint Task Force.  The meeting began with Planning Manager for the City of Charlottesville, Missy Creasy and Director of Planning for the County, Wayne Cilimberg, updating the commissions on where their jurisdictions stand in regards to affordable housing. 

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David Neuman, Architect for the University speaks to City Planning Commissioners Keller, Osteen and Emory.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081028-AffordableHousingFinal

The City and County officials then each reviewed the draft recommendations of the Joint Task Force discussing them in detail and asking questions of the Task Force representatives.  According to Ron White, Albemarle County’s Chief of Housing, the main recommendation of the Joint Task Force was for the establishment of a committed, permanent, dedicated source of annual funding from the City and the County outside of their existing operating budgets.  The Task Force also recommends establishment of a Regional Housing Fund and Housing Ombudsman Office, a “living wage” for government employees and contractors, and support for regional transit and regional housing nonprofits. At the City level, the Task Force recommended a proffer policy for housing at different income levels: extremely low (at or below 30% Annual Median Income (AMI)); very low (at or below 50% AMI); and low (at or below 80% AMI). 

The Task Force discussed the proffer policy in the County and the struggle of ensuring long-term affordability of proffered homes.  The Task force recommended that the County provide new incentives for development of housing for those with lower than 80% AMI because currently the County uses a sliding scale for the credit and developers have not been taking advantage of it.  The Task force recommended the 15% required affordable housing in County developments be split in thirds between extremely low, very low and low income level housing and that the County extend the term of affordability to apply for fifteen years. According to White, this could be accomplished using deed restrictions if proffered voluntarily by a developer.

Additionally, the Task Force recommended that both the City and County encourage single resident occupancy units, make efforts to ensure safety in low-income communities, provide technical assistance to help people to take advantage of tax credits, issue general obligation bonds, and providing loans to developers of affordable housing.

The recommendations the Task Force made for UVA include developing higher density, mixed income units for students, faculty and staff.  The idea is that if student housing on-Grounds is more attractive to students after their first year, they will move out of some of the affordable units in the City and free them up for other residents.

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Albemarle County Planning Commissioners listen to affordable housing presentations.

Albemarle Planning Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) and City Planning Commissioner Cheri Lewis both said a lack of information is an impediment to their moving forward with these recommendations.  “We need to get a snapshot of the housing that’s out there and then assess the need people-wise,” Lewis said.

Both Commissions would like clearer numbers demonstrating where the need is and whether accepting cash proffers instead of affordable housing units meets the immediate demands of the community.  Later on, it was discussed that in the County, Ron White makes the decision as to whether units or cash proffers are more appropriate for a specific project. 

The issue was raised that perhaps this problem needs to be dealt with in the context of a larger social challenge involving encouraging a living wage, access to transportation and the way people manage their disposable incomes.  Jason Pearson, Chairman of the Charlottesville Planning Commission, commented that it seems that these recommendations are a way of catching up to current demand but not actually getting ahead of the problem.

In response to the recommendation that UVA dedicate an annual fund to affordable housing, David Neuman, Architect for the University, pointed out that it is illegal and against the mission of the University to dedicate annual funds for these initiatives outside the University.  In discussing UVA’s place on the Task Force he said, “We joined the group to learn about the issues in a way I don’t think we could otherwise do.”  On transportation matters, however, the University has offered recently to contribute $1 million in one-time funds towards an Ivy Road Gateway Enhancement Project if both the City and County do the same.  Commissioner Lewis suggested that the report be altered to reflect the more limited participation that UVA views it can have in this initiative.

Fania Gordon

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
01:45 Missy Creasy gives City affordable housing update
06:00 Melissa Celii reviews Charlottesville affordable housing funding
10:15 Wayne Cilimberg gives history of affordable living choices in County and affordable housing update
23:00 Ron White discusses Task Force draft recommendations and process
30:00 Melissa Celii reviews the Task Force’s City recommendations
32:00 Ron White discusses the Task Force’s County recommendations
37:45 UVA recommendations
46:00 Discussions of single resident occupancy units
48:15 Discussion of rezoning and proffers, need for cash versus units
50:30 Discussion of need for long-term affordability and deed restrictions
1:06:00 Discussion of need to know our current stock
1:10:15 Commissioner Pearson asks how to get ahead in serving the full needs for housing rather than just playing catch-up.
1:18:30 Discussion of accessory units, multi-family structures and the role of personal choice.
1:25:30 David Neuman explains that University was not part of the consensus on these recommendations.
1:31:15 Cheri Lewis explains that housing committee recognizes that UVa cannot commit to funding, questions whether they should pull the UVa recommendations from the report
1:35:30 Acknowledgement given to David Neuman, David Norris and David Slutzky for getting the Task Force together and staff for supporting the process

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