July 24, 2019

VHDA + GO Virginia: Partners in Economic Development

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If Virginia wants job growth and economic prosperity, it needs to offer affordable housing.

That’s one of two key points VHDA is making in its ongoing discussions with one of the state’s leading economic development initiatives – GO Virginia.

The second point follows from the first: VHDA resources and programs are helping localities boost their affordable housing stock. 

The GO Virginia Coalition was formed in 2015 by senior business leaders in the Commonwealth. It provides financial and other incentives for business, government and educational entities to collaborate in ways that foster high-paying job growth in the private sector. The coalition is divided into nine geographically drawn regional councils, each with its own economic and workforce development challenges and opportunities. Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing, has been in discussions with many of them.

“One region we’ve met with wants to accelerate its growth in the biotech sector,” said Thompson. “We’ve talked about how VHDA could potentially help develop properties in which research and development facilities – or wet labs as they’re called – occupy the first floor, with entrepreneurs on the second floor and apartments higher up. Under the right circumstances, VHDA could finance the purchase and renovation of such properties, and even provide grant funding for front-end activities.”

This example reflects the development of a mixed-use / mixed-income property that has both a commercial and a housing component. This type of development just one of VHDA’s areas of expertise that can be a catalyst for job growth.

Another GO Virginia regional council decided to establish a housing subcommittee, following a meeting with VHDA. The region plans to apply for a VHDA Community Impact Grant to assess the redevelopment potential of properties located within its boundaries.

The link between jobs and housing is strong. Companies that expand their operations by adding jobs at a new location, for example, pay close attention to housing supply-and-demand considerations during their site selection process. A locality that lacks affordable housing units may be eliminated simply for that reason.

VHDA will continue to meet with GO Virginia’s regional councils, and explore opportunities for further collaboration. Our shared goal is to help ensure Virginia has the affordable housing it needs for a strong economic outlook.

For more information, please contact Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing, at 804-343-5692 or Chris.Thompson@vhda.com.

VHDA Grant Delivers Funds to Conduct Housing Study: Lynchburg’s First Step to Meeting Current Housing Needs

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A recently completed study funded by a VHDA Community Impact Grant has given the City of Lynchburg valuable statistical insight into its housing situation, especially relating to a lack of affordable units for low-income residents.

The study was commissioned last year by the Lynchburg Regional Housing Collaborative (LRHC), an organization that focuses on poverty-related issues affecting the city.

The study looked at Lynchburg’s housing supply and demand environment from a number of socio-economic measures. It was conducted by Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), which used a sophisticated new tool called Enterprise 360 to collect and analyze U.S. Census-tract data.

ECP reported the following:

Half of Lynchburg’s households make less than 80 percent of the Area’s Median Income ($48,250 a year for a family of four).
More than 10,000 households spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing.
Of that total, nearly 4,500 households are considered severely cost-burdened, meaning they spend at least half of their income on housing.
The city lacks 578 residential units for its lowest-income households.
Seven out of 10 families that moved within the city in 2016 had incomes below $25,000.

The study’s findings have been shared with Lynchburg officials and LRHC members, which include Miriam’s House, Rush Homes, Greater Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity, Lynchburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Lynchburg Community Action Group and the city of Lynchburg. The group plans to use this data to prepare a plan to promote housing growth and stability. City staffers have been asked to analyze the data and its implications and recommend next steps to the city council.

July 8, 2019

Honoring a True Partner and Friend of Affordable Housing

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An early background in social services might not immediately translate into multifamily housing and property management. But, Scott G. Reithel has made it work seamlessly for more than 40 years.

Scott started off as a Child Protective Caseworker in New York, equipped with a degree in sociology and social work. That work eventually led him into housing assistance work, and from there he became involved in property management. Since then, Scott’s work with multifamily and affordable housing has taken him all over the U.S.

For the last 10 years, he served as Vice President of Property Management and Director of Fair Housing / Section 504 for Community Housing Partners (CHP) in Richmond, Virginia. Scott retired from CHP in early 2019 and is now a consultant.

During his long and rich career, Scott achieved the designations of CPM® (Certified Property Manager), NAHP®-e (National Affordable Housing Professional-executive level), and CGPM (Credential for Green Property Management). His knowledge of property management combined with his background in social services have made him a valuable resource to VHDA, providing expert input and advice to help our work with developers of multifamily rental homes and affordable housing management.

“It’s difficult to overstate the quality of good professional management of properties, and that’s what Scott brings to the table,” said Neal Rogers, Director of Compliance and Asset Management at VHDA. “He is very well-respected and people value his opinion.” 

Scott is also a member of VHDA’s Rental Advisory Board. VHDA relies on the expertise of advisory groups to provide guidance on programs and services, as well as insight into industry challenges across the state.

In March of 2019, Scott was a co-recipient of the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) Industry Statesman Award. This award is given to a NAHMA member who is retired or nearing the end of a career. It recognizes outstanding leadership and service to NAHMA along with the affordable housing industry. Scott, who is a former president of NAHMA, also won the exclusive Member Emeritus Award in October 2018 from the organization.

For his efforts in developing housing and programs for persons with mental illness, Scott has been honored by the Eli Lily drug company and the National Mental Health Association and was given the Milwaukee Ovation Award. He has also been recognized for his fair housing work by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Scott is a stellar example of the people and partnerships that help VHDA accomplish our affordable housing mission in Virginia. "Scott's exposure to the affordable housing industry throughout the U.S. brings a wealth of knowledge to VHDA," said Neal. “It's wonderful to have long-term relationships with people like Scott.”

June 25, 2019

Overhaul of Norfolk Complex to Benefit Low-income Households

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An aging public apartment complex on Virginia’s seaboard is being upgraded with help from a multi-layered financing package from VHDA.

The Diggs Town public housing development was built in 1952 and renovated in the 1990s, but is now in need of another renovation. VHDA’s financing will allow the property’s owner, Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, to restore it both functionally and aesthetically.

The renovation of Diggs Town is part of a HUD program known as RAD, which seeks to preserve affordable housing. The project will restore a nearly 70-year-old complex, and provide many quality-of-life improvements for residents:
VHDA construction standards will improve grading to prevent flooding and allow for increased walkability, as well as provide asbestos removal and system upgrades.
New lighting will improve security.
New appliances and energy-efficient windows will help keep utility bills lower for residents.

When work is completed (scheduled for early 2021), 222 modernized apartments will be occupied by tenants making no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. A second phase of redevelopment is in the planning stages.

VHDA is providing $10.3 million in permanent financing for the Diggs Town renovation. To attain a low interest rate, the loan uses funds from VHDA’s REACH Virginia program. VHDA contributes a significant portion of our net revenues to this program each year to support housing for low-income families, the homeless, seniors, people with disabilities, and those who live in high-growth or high-cost areas. Money from REACH Virginia also helps support urban revitalization and preservation of small towns.

In addition to the financing, VHDA is issuing federal Housing Credits (sometimes called Low-Income Housing Tax Credits), which incentivize property owners and private investors to build or rehabilitate affordable rental housing. As a result, a certain number of units are set aside for lower-income households, while other units have higher rents and no maximum household income requirement. The property also accepts Housing Choice Vouchers.

Diggs Town is a prime example of how VHDA’s behind-the-scenes work brings state and federal programs together to support housing agencies, property owners and even private investors as they improve Virginia’s housing environment.

Danville Pilot Project to Feature New Generation of Manufactured Homes

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New and improved manufactured homes are now on the market, and with some help from VHDA, a pilot project is being planned in Danville.

Manufactured homes are built in factories in sections, then transported and assembled at the homesite. This process has several advantages: costs are more predictable, homes are usually less expensive than their site-built counterparts, and construction timelines are reduced – in part because weather delays can be avoided.

A Kentucky-based organization named Next Step will build the homes for the pilot. Next Step was founded by an Appalachian native who saw people in her region struggling to buy and maintain a home. It became a nonprofit organization in 2012, and today its mission is fully aligned with VHDA’s – making sustainable and affordable homeownership a reality for lower-income households.

In recent years, Next Step has transformed the quality of its manufactured homes by improving their durability, energy efficiency and aesthetics. In addition to permanent foundations, today’s Next Step homes have pitched roofs, front porches and attractive designs, and offer low operating, maintenance and utility costs.

VHDA’s strong working relationship with Danville officials helped jumpstart discussions between the city and Next Step about the upcoming pilot, which is expected to include six to eight homes, all ready for occupancy by end of 2019. The homes will be located in the same neighborhood as the VHDA-sponsored Center for Housing Education. The center offers resources and programs to make purchasing and maintaining a home an easier process, especially for first-time buyers.

VHDA sees manufactured homes as an important piece of the affordable housing puzzle. While not for all homebuyers, they represent a viable option for lower- and moderate-income households, all the more so because of their improved aesthetics and quality.

“We’re hoping the Danville pilot will change some of the public’s misperceptions about manufactured homes,” says Chris Thompson, VHDA’s director of strategic housing. “Today these homes are more attractive, more durable and more energy-efficient – and many families will view them as comfortable and affordable places to live.”

For more information, please contact Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing, at 804-343-5692 or Chris.Thompson@vhda.com.

VHDA + Virginia’s Planning District Commissions: Working Together to Jumpstart Housing Development

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Because we share a goal of creating sound, livable and connected communities, VHDA is proud to partner with Virginia’s 21 planning district commissions (PDCs).

Virginia’s PDCs are made up of elected officials, citizens appointed by local governments, and an executive director selected by the commission itself. PDCs assist governments with grant applications, program implementation, and land-use planning and mapping, among other activities. They also work closely with local and state agencies on highway planning, ridesharing, airport planning and specialized transit projects.

VHDA supports PDCs and local governments in their planning efforts; one of the most important ways we help is through our Community Impact Grants (CIGs). These grants are used to revitalize communities and spur economic growth through the development of mixed-use/mixed-income properties. Many PDCs have used grant funds for regional market studies or comprehensive housing plans, which serve as strategic playbooks. Such data-driven reports are especially valuable, because housing development is a long and complex process whose success pivots on many variables. Having complete and accurate upfront data yields a more successful outcome.

We’ve met with a number of PDCs to offer our housing expertise, including:
Central Shenandoah PDC (based in Staunton).
Commonwealth Regional Council (Farmville).
George Washington Regional Commission (Fredericksburg).
Middle Peninsula PDC (Saluda).
New River Valley Regional Commission (Radford).
Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission (Front Royal).
Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission (Culpeper).

During our meeting with the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, we gave a presentation on the importance of affordable housing to a region’s economic growth. Their executive director remarked that the information shared would be very helpful in pushing their discussion of housing development forward.

Our longstanding partnership with PDCs throughout the state will continue, as we work together to put quality, affordable housing within reach for more Virginians.

For more information about VHDA planning resources, including Community Impact Grants, please contact Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing, at 804-343-5692 or Chris.Thompson@vhda.com.

April 23, 2019

VHDA’s Role in Providing a New Lease on Life to Vulnerable Populations in Richmond

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Pastor Mike McClary knows what it means to be down and out and on the verge of despair. But he also knows what it takes to turn his life around, and for more than 30 years he’s been helping others do the same with theirs.   

Pastor Mike was a runaway at 13, a self-described rebellious Army private at 18 and a homeless vagrant fighting a losing battle against substance abuse soon thereafter. But in 1982 he discovered religion in a Norfolk, Virginia, mission, and three years later he was ordained a Baptist minister. He subsequently served as pastor of several congregations in Richmond, and it was there in 1987 that he founded Good Samaritan Ministries, where he now serves as executive director, working with his wife Nita.

Good Samaritan is a lifeline for people fighting poverty, homelessness and addiction. It serves hot meals to the hungry and distributes clothing to the needy, and it operates a thrift store and an auto donation center. It also owns approximately 100 affordable rental units, all of them financed through VHDA.

Good Samaritan’s discipleship program for recovering addicts is perhaps its signature activity. Participants – usually 60 to 70 at any given time – spend the first six months living in a dormitory, coping with drug withdrawal and learning to accept responsibility for their circumstances. During the next six months they’re taught job skills as well as how to accept authority and get along with others. They live in apartments, including those VHDA has financed, during this stage.

It’s after graduation that the reality of finding a place to live kicks in, because very few of these people are creditworthy enough to find a lease on the open market.

That’s where Clopton Manor Apartments come in – the most recent Good Samaritan property financed by VHDA. When the sale closes in March, its 44 units will house discipleship program graduates as well as low-income households that qualify.

Good Samaritan Ministries is a beacon to people whose lives are threatened by darkness. VHDA is proud that our financing opportunities can support this program, and we salute Mike and Nita McClary for being difference-makers in Richmond.

For more information about VHDA’s rental financing, please visit vhda.com/multifamilyfinancing.