April 6, 2021

Hosting Free Webinars for Military Homebuyers

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Are you thinking about buying a home, but not sure where to start? Virginia Housing can help. 

Chatting it up LIVE: Homebuying with Virginia Housing is a series of free one-hour webinars designed to help VA-eligible homebuyers learn about the process of buying a home. Webinar attendees will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card after each session.

“These webinars are excellent resources for service members and veterans looking to purchase their first home,” said Briana Noel, a Virginia Housing Education and Training Officer and Army reservist. “We will discuss topics such as preparing for homeownership, VA loans and veteran-specific incentives. Attendees will also learn about homebuyer resources and how to access them. Our service members have selflessly served our country and we want to take the opportunity to serve them.”


Learning About Homeownership

Virginia Housing will host the following free online webinars to discuss important topics for homebuyers:


·         Preparing for Homeownership, Tuesday, April 20, 2021 – noon to 1 p.m.

Buying a home may be the largest transaction you’ll ever make. Being a homeowner is exciting, but it’s also a major financial responsibility and one you need to prepare for. A military financial educator can help you plan and get a handle on your finances. 


·         Exploring Lenders, Mortgages and the Loan Process, Wednesday, April 21, 2021 – noon to 1 p.m.

Working with a lender before you start your housing search can help you set realistic expectations about the cost of a mortgage loan and what you will be able to afford. Resources and benefits for the military buyer is our focus. A panel of lenders will discuss VA eligibility, the funding fee, Virginia Housing Closing Cost Assistance grant and much more.  


·         Finding the Right Home, Thursday, April 22, 2021 – noon to 1 p.m.

Military homebuyers often face the unique challenges of learning a new area and the concerns of moving again in the future. A real estate agent can help you find the home you’ve been dreaming about and serve as a knowledgeable partner, capable of walking you through the entire homebuying process.

 

The sessions will feature a panel of subject matter experts, including housing counselors, lenders and real estate agents. To learn more and register for the free webinars, visit the Virginia Housing Homebuyer Event Calendar at VirginiaHousing.com/FindAClass.

“Even with the challenges that the pandemic has brought us, motivated buyers are still purchasing homes through the use of innovative technology, like virtual counseling sessions and home tours, online loan applications and electronic closings,” said Noel. “We look forward to supporting Virginia’s service members and veterans through these unprecedented times by offering these safe and useful webinars at no cost.”

March 12, 2021

A new method of construction is bringing more affordable housing to Fishersville, Va.

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It’s no secret that we are living longer. Today, there are more than 46 million adults age 65 and older living in the United States. That number is projected to double by the year 2050.


While living longer is a good thing, it also has some challenges. In the housing world, an older population living on fixed incomes means a need for more housing – and not just any housing – but the kind that is affordable, accessible and safe.


How do we tackle that? We get creative and encourage others in our industry to do the same.

 

Fishersville

In the small town of Fishersville, nearly 27% of the adult population is over the age of 65. Compared to other towns throughout the state, that’s relatively high. In fact, in Virginia, seniors only make up about 16% of the population, according to the United States Census Bureau.


Long-time real estate developers William and Richard Park of Charlottesville-based Pinnacle Construction and Development Corp. recognized the need for senior housing in Fishersville but were struggling with how best to build an attractive, affordable apartment complex while keeping costs down and shortening construction time.


“I thought, ‘what is something we could do that is different than how we typically do garden style apartments in this area,’” said William Park.


The answer? Modular construction.


Modular construction is a process in which a building is constructed off-site in a manufacturing facility and then delivered to the job site where the prefabricated pieces are assembled. The process is considered eco-friendly, cost-effective and usually takes a lot less time.


Intrigued by the process, the Parks put together a proposal for a development called Gateway Senior Apartments – an affordable 80-unit, one- and two-bedroom apartment complex for adults age 55 and older. All of the units would be income-restricted with rent at or below 60% of the area’s median income.


Another bonus is the development’s location. The senior apartments will be less than a mile from the Augusta Health Regional Hospital and just across the street from an assisted living community and medical offices.

 

Putting the Pieces Together

The creative idea behind Gateway Apartments led the Parks to apply for funding through Virginia Housing’s new Innovative Demonstrations Program. The program seeks to spur more affordable housing by supporting technological innovation in the housing industry. To qualify, projects should use generally available technologies and techniques that vary significantly from approaches usually taken in housing construction and they must be below the median cost of new single-family housing in the region of the proposed site.


A panel of housing experts reviewed the Parks’ proposal and awarded them 9% federal Housing Credits, equal to $ 14 million. From there, the Parks applied for financing through Virginia Housing and received $6.4 million.


“This is the first time we’ve financed a modular apartment complex,” said Kristina Armistead, Development Officer with Virginia Housing. “That’s what makes this project so unique.”


Armistead worked closely with the Parks on the financing side. She said the development not only meets a great need in Fishersville, but as the first modular constructed building in the area, it could open the door for future similar developments.


The Parks are also working with The Richman Group, which is funding the Housing Credit equity, and Merchant’s Bank, which is providing the developers a bridge loan during construction.

 

Breaking Ground

In their 35 years of experience, this will be the Parks’ first time using modular construction, and they are looking forward to starting work.


When the prefabricated buildings arrive, they will be 75% complete. Pinnacle will tie in all the mechanical systems like HVAC, plumbing, sprinkler and electrical, while performing the exterior work such as brick, vinyl and the roof.


“There is a lot of coordination between our architect and the modular builder’s design team,” said William Park.


A project like this typically takes between 18 and 22 months, but modular construction should shorten that time frame by six to seven months.


The Parks plan to break ground by December 2020, and the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.

March 2, 2021

Addressing the Homeownership Gap

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When it comes to homeownership, African Americans and other historically underserved communities continue to fall behind other households, by nearly a 21% margin.

Why does the gap exist?

 

Decades of discriminatory housing practices beginning in the 1930s made it nearly impossible for African Americans to purchase a home. It wasn’t until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed – which made housing discrimination illegal – that things began to change. Though progress has been made over the years, there’s still much to do. Ultimately, closing the homeownership gap will require a collective action by government stakeholders, industry, the private sector, nonprofits and academia.

Addressing the barriers to minority homeownership is a key priority for Virginia Housing.

To help remove these barriers, we’ve dedicated $1 million toward housing education and counseling, and partnered with organizations like Prince William County’s NAACP chapter, where we presented a four-part online series for first-time homeowners. The series included information about our first-time homebuyer programs, how to work with a Realtor, how to work with a lender and the benefits of working with a housing counselor. Because of the program’s success, we expanded the effort to NAACP chapters across the state.

“This was a great opportunity to share our free consumer resources with such a historical group as the NAACP, which for decades has focused on political issues, education, social awareness and equality for people of color,” said LaDonna Cruse, Virginia Housing’s Education Manager.

We’ve also created a Minority Business Advisory Council to promote the participation of minority-owned businesses and partnered with the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers to help find ways to break down barriers to homeownership. In addition, we launched a homeownership marketing campaign designed to reach a broader multicultural audience.

Other housing organizations across the country are also making big steps toward closing the gap. Enterprise, a national nonprofit focused on affordable housing, created a $3.5 billion initiative that establishes an equitable path forward for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (“BIPOC”) and other historically marginalized housing providers. Netflix Inc. is a big contributor, committing $25 million to the cause.

 

Similarly, LISC – another nonprofit that connects communities with public and private resources – created Project 10X, a $1 billion initiative aimed at closing the racial health, wealth and opportunity gaps.

 

“Despite the challenges that have been thrown our way due to COVID-19, we will continue our efforts to increase homeownership education among African Americans and other underserved groups,” said Cruse. “Our newest initiative, ‘Chatting It Up Live: Homebuying with Virginia Housing,’ is a series of virtual sessions that address frequently asked questions about the homebuying process. This effort demonstrates that the dream of homeownership is still very much alive and attainable for people of color — even during this pandemic.”

Anyone looking for an affordable home in Virginia can visit VirginiaHousing.com to take advantage of programs designed to help make homeownership a reality.

January 21, 2021

Size doesn’t matter when it comes to affordable housing.

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Zarina Fazaldin, a small real estate developer in Richmond, has worked with Virginia Housing for several years rehabilitating old houses and turning them into multi-family rentals.

When it comes to working with rental housing developers, one size does not fit all.

“We work with a whole range of developers,” said Chris Thompson, Director of Strategic Housing at Virginia Housing. “From small, private and nonprofit developers to very large-scale for-profit and not-for-profit developers.”

What separates them are the levels of investment and experience. Typically, large developers are putting together proposals upwards of $5 million, have their own brokers, and are armed with years of experience. Smaller developers, on the other hand, typically propose developments under the $5 million mark and are less than 10 units.

In recent years, Virginia Housing has made a concerted effort to create a more robust network of smaller developers by creating a Strategic Lending Department, new community outreach initiatives and educational tools.

“In many cases, smaller developers don’t know where to start,” said Wally Robinson, Strategic Lending Officer with Virginia Housing. “They have great ideas but might not have direction. We work closely with them and help them put their ideas on paper, come up with a strategic plan and get things going.”

“Pre-COVID-19 we would go meet with them one-on-one and walk the property site with them,” added Thompson. “Now, we have transitioned a lot of that to virtual discussions, but we remain just as involved. We discuss finances, feasibility studies, how to apply for grants that can help them with market analysis and project planning, as well as determine if their development is viable.”

Zarina Fazaldin, a Richmond developer and community activist, has worked with Virginia Housing on revitalization projects since the early 2000s.

Most recently, funding she received through Virginia Housing allowed her to purchase an abandoned historic mansion in the Jackson Ward section of Richmond and transform it into a four-unit affordable housing complex. The two-story house was built in 1915 for Dr. William Henry Hughes, a prominent African American physician at the time.

Without the low-interest loan from Virginia Housing, Fazaldin said she would have had to separate the property into 10-12 units instead of four just to make a profit. That many units would have taken away from the character of the home, which was built by Richmond’s first African American architect Thaddeus Russell.

“Virginia Housing’s help didn’t just allow me to purchase the property, but to keep its historical character inside and out,” said Fazaldin.

While Fazaldin loves old houses and transforming them into something new, she’s most passionate about how that transformation affects the surrounding community.

“It’s so important, especially in the Richmond area where there are so many historic homes,” she said. “The neighbors get excited, and they start working on their houses too and then others purchase homes in the community. Eventually these once-ignored and abandoned neighborhoods start to come back to life.”

This kind of result is a perfect example of how small developers can make a big impact.

Urban Hope -- another small developer based out of Richmond -- recently worked with Virginia Housing for the first time. The small faith-based nonprofit has been in operation for nearly 20 years and focuses on providing affordable housing opportunities and financial health education to those in the East End of the city.

“They are a well-organized group that fundraise their money, collaborate and bring in investors and truly focus on individuals and their housing needs,” said Robinson, who worked with Urban Hope on the lending side.

Virginia Housing provided $415,000 in funding through its REACH Virginia program to help cash out short-term investors and provide permanent financing for an affordable housing development Urban Hope owns in the Church Hill area.

Urban Hope’s Executive Director Sarah Hale said the experience was amazing, and that she hopes Virginia Housing will “continue to be an essential partner” in future deals.

“Many people pointed us in the direction of Virginia Housing as a place of great resources in terms of guidance, information and potentially capital,” said Hale.

Feedback like Hale’s is exactly what Robinson and Thompson want to hear as they continue to spread the word about Virginia Housing’s programs and assistance for small developers throughout the state – particularly in rural areas. “We really want to focus on the underserved markets,” said Thompson. “I think a lot of small developers don’t know what’s available and don’t realize the level of direct technical assistance we can provide in addition to financing.”

To learn more about partnering with Virginia Housing, contact Chris Thompson at chris.thompson@virginiahousing.com.