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January 22, 2009

Affordable housing task force unveils report

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Slutzky
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Slutzky (Rio) was a member of the task force

A task force created to recommend ways to create more affordable living choices in Charlottesville and Albemarle County has reported its results. The Joint Task Force on Affordable Housing formed in December 2007 and consisted of representatives of the two localities, the University of Virginia, and the advocacy group IMPACT. The group was charged with reviewing current public and private initiatives to address the cost of housing, to address the gap between low-income families and their ability to afford a home,  and to suggest better ways in which local governments and UVA can collaborate.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090122-Affordable-Housing-Report

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Slutzky (Rio) said the task force took on a difficult challenge, especially as hard economic conditions create even more pressure for those with lower incomes. “Affordable housing is going to become an even more critical issue for the constituents that we’re trying to take care of here,” Slutzky said.

Slutzky said while some of the recommendations could be “costly”, the community should try to implement them as soon as possible. Specific recommendations depend on the jurisdiction, and more direct suggestions were aimed at Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

“We recognized fairly late in the game that there are limits on what the University is legally allowed to do,” Slutzky said. “They have as their first priority under the law to provide education functions and not specifically to provide housing functions.”

Selected recommendations for both the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County

  • Commit to a dedicated annual stream of funding to support the building and preserving of existing affordable housing
  • Support the creation of a regional housing fund that can accept investments from public and private sources
  • Support the creation of “single room occupancy” units and other affordable living choices
  • Support and encourage new security measures in neighborhoods that may have affordable living choices but the perception of being unsafe
  • Consider the use of general obligation bonds to pay for affordable housing initiatives
  • Support the Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust which could lower cost of housing by purchasing the underlying property
  • Pay all City, County and UVA employees a “living wage”
  • Support efforts to create a regional transit authority
  • Continue support for regional non-profits that work on affordable living choices such as the Piedmont Housing Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and the Albemarle Housing Improvement Fund

Selected recommendations for the City of Charlottesville:

  • Adopt a proffer policy that requires affordability for three different income levels – extremely low, very-low, and low-income levels based on specific annual median income levels
  • Create a Housing Ombudsman Office

Selected recommendations for Albemarle County:

  • Amend existing proffer policy by putting caps on cost of proffered units, provide more incentives for developers to get more credit for making units even more affordable, and to enforce the affordable cost of proffered units through deed restrictions
  • Create a new fund that would aggregate all County housing money (including cash proffers

Recommendations for the University of Virginia:

  • Consider building housing sites to provide higher density mixed income housing for students, staff and faculty
  • Continue providing housing for all first-year students, consider more housing options for other undergraduate and graduate students
  • Pay all employees a living wage and encourage all contractors to pay a living wage
  • Support regional transit authority and other transit network options

Slutzky said that the task force decided not to recommend a specific dollar amount for the City and County governments to allocate towards affordable housing. “That wasn’t really in the purview of the task force,” Slutzky said.

UVA Architect David Neuman represented the University on the task force, but neither he nor an alternate was present at the press conference. Slutzky said it was his thought that UVA sees the issue as being a City and County responsibility now that the task force has done its work.

Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Introduction from City Councilor Satyendra Huja
  • 02:30 - Huja lists the four charges of the committee
  • 04:40 - Albemarle County Chairman David Slutzky lists some of the task force's recommendations
  • 16:22 - Slutzky lists the recommendations for the University
  • 18:40 - Rachana Dixit of the Daily Progress asks  how much money will be devoted in City and County's budgets for affordable housing next year
  • 19:30 - Brian Wheeler of Charlottesville tomorrow asks where UVA representatives are
  • 19:50 - Wheeler asks if other UVA recommendations were discussed
  • 20:30 - Will Goldsmith of C-Ville Weekly asks how recommendations will be prioritized
  • 21:30 - Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum asks if regulatory reform was discussed
  • 22:40 - Goldsmith asks question about whether proffer policy should be changed to encourage "cash-in-lieu" as opposed to dedicated units
  • 23:10 - Dixit asks how regional fund would be governed to ensure proper use

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