December 9, 2019

Acquire, Renovate, Sell: New Program Gives First-time Homebuyers More and Better Options

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First-time homebuyers in Virginia now have a larger pool of homes to choose from, thanks to a program introduced recently by VHDA and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The program is called Acquire-Renovate-Sell (ARS), and as its name implies, it has three distinct parts:

  • First, a property is acquired by a nonprofit organization, private developer or local government that’s been vetted by DHCD.
  • Next, the property is renovated, using funds advanced by VHDA.
  • Finally, the property is placed on the market for purchase by a first-time homebuyer.

After the sale, some of the proceeds are recycled back through the program, enabling other properties to be renovated and sold. 

Without the renovations made possible by ARS, most of these homes would have limited or no resale value. Funds for renovations are allocated through REACH Virginia, a VHDA self-funded program that provides money to help meet the state’s most critical housing needs.

Properties eligible for the ARS program are single-family detached homes, townhouses and condominiums, including foreclosed properties. Each home may receive up to $45,000 in ARS funds to pay for improvements and associated costs. Funds can be used for renovations to make the home more livable, energy-efficient or commercially viable, especially upgrades to plumbing and electrical systems, doors, windows, flooring and appliances.

The new program increases the inventory of affordable homes for first-time buyers, and reduces the number of unmarketable properties left unsold and vacant. Plus, renovations help to stimulate local economies, making the new program a win on many levels. 

For details on VHDA’s Acquire-Renovate-Sell program, including household eligibility requirements, please contact VHDA Director of Homeownership Lending Mike Urban at Michael.Urban@VHDA.com.

New Workforce Housing for Fredericksburg

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In the fast-developing area of Fredericksburg, Virginia, affordable housing has a new address. In this booming market, where reasonably priced housing is so hard to come by, Orchard Ridge at Jackson Village offers 169 new apartments, and a second phase of construction will bring the total to 245. Here, teachers, hospital workers, firefighters, police and others can find one-, two- and even three-bedroom apartments that fit their budgets and provide a comfortable lifestyle.

All 169 units must be rented to individuals or families with $70,320 or less in annual income. There are several models to choose from; all feature 9-foot ceilings, open floorplans, upgraded flooring, oversized windows, designer kitchens and baths and a full-size washer and dryer. Community amenities include controlled entry access, lobbies with designer furnishings, bike storage, a dog park area, 24-hour fitness center, clubhouse, pool and a picnic/grilling area. The community is near schools, shopping, dining and healthcare, with easy access to both Washington, D.C. and Richmond via I-95 and commuter rail.

“We’re excited to be part of this community,” said L. Scott Armiger, President of Orchard Development Corporation. “Our group develops affordable housing and when we looked at the site and the Fredericksburg market, it looked like the right fit.” This is the fifth time Orchard Development Corporation and VHDA have teamed up on a project.

December 5, 2019

Revitalization and Workforce Housing Coming to Middlesex County

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Governor Ralph Northam (center) visited the Cook’s Corner revitalization site.

Middlesex County on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula is ground zero for a revitalization plan that is expected to produce multiple benefits for the region.   

In an area called Cook’s Corner, 24 affordable workforce housing rental units will be built by 2020 as a measure to attract and retain skilled workers. The new apartments will provide much-needed housing for Middlesex County employees — teachers, sheriff's deputies and others — as well as residents and employees from adjacent counties.   

While housing is the cornerstone of the plan, other components will boost the region’s economy and infrastructure. They include moving and repurposing a historic school as a micropub (a restaurant and mini-brewery), converting another vacant school building to a special events center, renovating a gymnasium and county offices, building a nature trail with signage commemorating the region’s African-American heritage, and extending water and sewage lines.

Early funding for Cook’s Corner has come from several sources: 
  • A VHDA Community Impact Grant is covering site planning and design work, a market study, the preparation of zoning and bid documents and other upfront development activities.
  • The River Counties Community Foundation awarded the foundation $150,000 over a three-year period.
  • Plan sponsors have also received a $2.25 million Vibrant Communities Initiative grant through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and a $480,000 Industrial Revitalization Fund grant.
The housing units will be developed by the Middlesex Foundation. (The chairman of their all-volunteer board is Bruce DeSimone, a former VHDA official with extensive housing development experience.) Other partners collaborating with the foundation include:
  • Middlesex County and its School Board
  • Middlesex County Economic Development Authority
  • Rappahannock Oyster Company
  • Middlesex Water Authority
  • Hampton Roads Sanitation District
The Cook’s Corner revitalization plan will check three important boxes – it will produce affordable workforce housing, it will create jobs and new tax revenues, and it will expand vital infrastructure through new water and sewer lines. It’s a textbook example of just how transformational such plans can be, and the difference they can make in a community. 
   
Learn more:
Chris Thompson, VHDA’s director of strategic housing, is your source for learning about the many different ways in which a Community Impact Grant can support community revitalization efforts. He can be reached at 804-343-5692 or Chris.Thompson@VHDA.com.

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.