December 18, 2013

What is Single Family Servicing? A Sit Down with Pamela Holmes

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Today's post comes to us from VHDA's Heather Weidner, who interviewed Pamela Holmes for the blog.

Pamela Holmes is the Director of VHDA’s Single Family Servicing, and she gave us an overview of her department and the services that they provide.

How did you get involved with affordable housing? I began my career in collections and moved to the role of customer service representative. Later, I was promoted to Escrow Administration. When I joined VHDA, I worked in the taxes area, and then I was promoted to Customer Service Manager. I was recently promoted to my current position in March of 2013 after 15 years of service.

What is Single Family Servicing? This department includes Customer Service, Escrow Administration, Payoffs and Assumptions, Investor Relations, and Default Administration for our Single Family borrowers.

Can you tell us about your role at VHDA? Our job is to ensure that we mitigate all types of risks and that all business functions such as data quality, reporting and analytics are in alignment with the investor guidelines.

What do you want everyone to know about your department? We are here to provide excellent customer service. Ninety percent of our loans are performing loans, and our division is about more than Default Administration. Our group is responsible for staffing the Call Center, disbursing escrow items, and working with borrowers by performing early stage collections and determining retention options to help our homeowners remain in their homes.

Has the focus of your department changed as a result of the economic shifts over the past few years? We have developed creative initiatives to assist our borrowers with various workouts in Default Administration. In addition, we have increased our staffing capacity to handle the demand for our services. Like other businesses, we have been challenged to do more with less.

© 2013 VHDA, All Rights Reserved. Please Review the  Privacy Policy.

December 17, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Pressure on Resources? Use Data

(RECAP: Cities around the world are working out how to accommodate more people and cope with increased pressure on resources; and making use of city data could help.)

Fighting the Vacant Property Plague

(RECAP: The innovative move by a shrinking city to help keep neighborhoods livable may end up serving as a model for industrial cities across the nation that are faced with smaller populations and high foreclosure and vacancy rates.)

Mod Squad

(RECAP: From the New York City skyline to the blue skies of Los Angeles, several affordable housing developments are rising section by section using modular construction. The size and scope of these developments may kick open the door for other affordable housing projects.)

CDFIs: A New Force in Homeownership?

(RECAP: When it comes to connecting underserved communities with the capital to revitalize, no organizations are more effective than community development financial institutions (CDFIs)—the innovative, mission-driven organizations that provide much-needed financial services in low- and moderate-income communities across the U.S.)

Seniors More Likely to Live in Communities than with Relatives

(RECAP: Although the share of seniors moving in with relatives has been on the rise in recent years, those living in areas with large senior populations are more likely to opt for community-style living. The rise in seniors living with relatives is not due to the recession, rather, it’s because of demographic shifts.)

December 11, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Traversing the Border: Planning with Transnational Communities

(RECAP: Transnational communities challenge tenets of both locality and community, and help us understand what sustains a community even in the face of significant political and physical barriers.)

In Blight Fight, Philadelphia May Be Biggest City to Create a Land Bank

(RECAP: Land banks have become an increasingly popular tool for cities dealing with empty lots and abandoned property. Now the model may be getting even bigger.)

CDCs: You Don’t Have to Develop Real Estate to Be a Success

(RECAP: Community development is not and should not be centrally defined by affordable housing production. Re-emphasizing the community-connection commitment of community development means that new CDCs in new places should first and foremost be community organizers.)

Cities Banish Homeless, Not the Problem

(RECAP: Prohibiting the homeless from gathering where food or help is offered is nothing more than sweeping a painful set of urban problems under the rug. Cities, and their homeless residents, deserve better.)

Silver Linings: Low Income Senior Housing

(RECAP: While “low income senior housing” may sound unappealing to some people, the reality is that affordable housing can be a boon for seniors who find themselves spending the lion’s share of their retirement income on rent.)

December 4, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Austin to House Homeless in a Tiny House Village

(RECAP: Community First! Village, in the planning stages for nearly 10 years, is set to break ground on a 27-acre property sprinkled with tiny houses, mobile homes, teepees and refurbished RVs.)

Smart Cities around the World Are Saving Money Now. How about Your Home Town?

(RECAP: Proven smart cities strategies can boost productivity, increase responsiveness and reduce impact on the environment. Hard-pressed local governments often complain they have limited resources to invest, so the “Smart Cities Readiness Guide” points to eight areas that can yield quick payback.)

Housing Proves Challenging For Adults On The Spectrum

(RECAP: The vast majority of adults and transition-age individuals with autism are living at home and less than one-quarter are on waiting lists for housing services so they can live more independently. Financial concerns loom large as a potential barrier to achieving housing goals.)

A new way to keep tabs on mom and dad

(RECAP: A new pilot program designed to improve the well-being of aging Americans still living independently in their homes is looking to a rather unusual source of information to get ahead of people’s potential health problems: usage patterns of water, electric and gas.)

Goldman Sachs Weighs In on Social Impact Bonds

(RECAP: Ever since the United Kingdom matched private investments to social-problem solutions, the idea has been spreading like wildfire here in the U.S. Since 2012, social impact bond legislation has passed in fourteen states and the District of Columbia, and Harvard's Kennedy School has set up a Social Impact Bond Technical Assistance Lab.)

December 3, 2013

What kind of community do Americans want?

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In today's post, VHDA's Brooke Scott brings us up to speed on an interesting national survey and how it relates to affordable housing.

In case you missed it, the National Association of REALTORS® recently released its 2013 Community Preference Survey. Because it provides timely insight into the housing needs and desires of the current population, planners and developers seeking to design or revitalize communities will find it a valuable resource.

Survey participants not only indicated their ideal community, type of home, changes in quality of life and transportation needs, they also identified issues they think should be a high priority for state government. Among those issues is affordable housing. According to the survey:

  • 57 percent of respondents believe having housing for people with moderate- to low-income should be a high priority for their state government (up 11 points from 2011, from 46 to 57 percent).
  • 59 percent believe improving the availability of affordable housing should be a high priority (up eight points from 2011, from 51 to 59 percent).

Whether you’re developing or revitalizing communities or creating policies to support affordable housing, you’ll find there is something for everyone in the survey. View the analysis and slides.

© 2013 VHDA, All Rights Reserved. Please Review the  Privacy Policy.

November 27, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Pop-Up Planning: New Methods for Transforming the Public Process

(RECAP: Looking to push the envelope beyond the traditional community workshop with its unimaginative PowerPoint presentations at the lectern, and weary audiences dissatisfied with the process? Want to liven up the planning process? Well pop a ‘Pop-Up’ into it and see what happens.)

What is Placemaking?

(RECAP: Rooted in community-based participation, ‘placemaking’ is both an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region. It has the potential to be one of the most transformative ideas of this century.)

Maufacturing Solutions

(RECAP: There’s a growing number of success stories where residents are gaining ownership of their communities and their futures, thanks to organizations that recently recognized the untapped potential of manufactured homes in addressing the affordable housing crisis, and the role residents can play in that transformation.)

Strength Matters: Improving Organizational Operating Performance

(RECAP: To be cost effective and have impact, nonprofit owners and developers must be entrepreneurial, productive and cost-effective. To achieve these results, community development real estate institutions (CDRIs) need tools to identify operational strengths and challenges, respond appropriately to each, and to assess and mitigate risk.)

Built to replace Ellen Wilson housing project, townhouses are a mixed-income model

(RECAP: Washington D.C.’s first social experiment with mixed-income housing—a federally funded project that replaced abandoned public housing—has become a model for other developments, even if it made only a modest contribution toward solving the District’s affordable housing problem.)

20K project builds smart homes for under 20k

(RECAP: Sometimes the definition of "affordable housing” is enough to raise eyebrows, but in Alabama, a state with some extremely impoverished regions, a group of architecture students decided to take it seriously with the 20k Program. The program aims to build houses for under $20,000, reflecting the maximum amount of money someone living on Social Security could realistically spend on a home.)

November 20, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Slideshow: How Governments Are Using Instagram

(RECAP: Governments increasingly are using Instagram’s photo-sharing service to connect with citizens, whether to push out important information, share the whereabouts of political leaders or just to post a pleasant picture.)

Commuting Places as Community Spaces

(RECAP: The idea of a station as destination and gateway is not new, as visits to older railway terminals reveal, but along the way we seem to have forgotten how special these spaces can be and what important community centerpieces they can become.)

How the U.S. Became a Unique "Nation of Homezoners”

(RECAP: Exceptionalism is a word often associated with the U.S., most often with foreign policy. Sonia Hirt of Virginia Tech argues that, since its inception, American zoning has also taken a unique form compared to European counterparts—detached single family zoning.)

Four Infographics About Resilient Urban Systems

(RECAP: With cities witnessing an increasing frequency of extreme weather events, it’s more crucial than ever that the systems that keep our cities functioning are resilient to the complex, uncertain and constantly changing risks that face them.)

ReThink Survey: Perceptions of Public Housing 2013

(RECAP: ReThink Why Housing Matters is a new initiative challenging the sometimes negative perceptions Americans have about public housing by sharing stories of public housing’s successful impact on individuals, families and your own community.)

November 18, 2013

2013 Governor’s Housing Conference Begins This Week

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The 2013 Governor’s Housing Conference will be held Nov. 20-22 at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.
This year’s conference is focused on building strong economies through housing and community development. Attendees will be exploring how to prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities, tackle today’s challenges and build strong neighborhoods and communities for the next decade.

The conference will kick off on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. for the opening plenary, Housing as an Economic Driver, followed by the opening reception at 5:30 p.m. The three-day conference also offers numerous educational concurrent sessions and a variety of thought-provoking plenary sessions led by experts in housing.

Back by popular demand this year, the conference will feature a multitude of “snaps,” 30-minute sessions that link experts to practitioners on specific community development and housing topics.
This year, conference sessions will include:

  • Entrepreneurs: Powering Community Innovation and Individual Assets
  • Echoboomers, Babyboomers, and Immigration: The Changing Faces of Communities
  • 25 Years and Counting: Rethinking the Low Income Housing Tax Credit
  • The Mortgage Web: Navigating the Changing Mortgage Finance Industry
  • Veterans and Their Communities: Strategies for Re-entry and Thriving Lives
  • Social Media for Nonprofits: Knowing What to Say and How to Say It
  • What Every Funder Wants to Know About Your Nonprofit

Please visit for more information and updates or call 804- 371-7000 with questions.

© 2013 VHDA, All Rights Reserved. Please Review the Privacy Policy.

November 13, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Lighting a Spark Between Energy Advocates and Community Development

(RECAP: Partnerships between utility companies and affordable rental housing owners are ripe for development. In fact, in the next 10 years, utility companies are set to budget a conservative estimate of $12 billion for programs that could help finance affordable housing energy-efficiency retrofits, including everything from small-scale updates to more comprehensive treatments.)

Shipping Containers and the Pop-Up City

(RECAP: Despite the initial appearance, shipping container construction is not just a novelty construction method for pop-up city projects. Provided there’s demand for temporary spaces, shipping containers – materials that have proven themselves to be sustainable and affordable – may be able to provide the solution.)

Understanding the quirks of incremental urbanism

(RECAP: Incremental Urbanism is a critically important part of addressing our economic and environmental challenges, so we must help make it happen in the right places, work diligently to make it excellent and learn to accept its occasional quirkiness.)

Coming Soon: NeighborWorks One-Week Certifications 

(RECAP: Beginning December 9, 2013, NeighborWorks America will offer one-week certifications in community engagement, construction and rehab, management and leadership, and homeownership and community lending. The goal is to help provide community development and affordable housing professionals with efficient paths to empowerment and accomplishment.)

‘Habilitation’ Among New Health Care Benefits

(RECAP: People need habilitation when they have a congenital defect or disease that impairs the development of basic life skills. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, habilitation services will now be an “essential benefit” in private insurance plans. The states, together with insurers and advocacy groups, will have a big say in what, and how much, is covered.)

November 12, 2013

Keeping Up With Compliance in Rental Housing

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VHDA’s mission is to help Virginians attain quality, affordable housing, but affordable housing doesn’t mean that safety and security can be left lacking. To that end, our Rental Housing Division has a team of internally-trained Asset Managers and Compliance Officers who focus on identifying and correcting issues found at properties in which VHDA has an active interest. This process is based in a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program requirement for reporting to the IRS. But for VHDA, it also means watching out for the Commonwealth and its communities.

November 6, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Analysis: Who's Moving to Your State?

(RECAP: States welcomed more than 8.9 million new residents in 2012. Census data paints a portrait of each state’s new crop of residents, showing significant variation across different demographic groups.)

City Sustainability Must Begin With Reinvestment in Neighborhoods

(RECAP: Neighborhoods are where development decisions are made and where increments of change actually take place, as well as where residents and workers experience the city environment on an everyday basis. Quite literally, sustainability starts in the neighborhood.)

Watch Arlington’s “Bikeswell”

(RECAP: Arlington produced a half-hour documentary about its bike planning efforts, and how it became one of the east coast’s best cycling towns.)

Home Sharing Meets Growing Need for Senior Housing Alternative

(RECAP: While meeting companionship and home maintenance needs but without offering medical care, home sharing is rising in some areas as an affordable alternative to traditional assisted living and independent living communities designed for the aging population.)

Sustainable Design and Green Building Toolkit for Local Governments

(RECAP: Developed by the EPA, this toolkit is designed to assist local governments in identifying and removing barriers to sustainable design and green building within their permitting process.)

October 31, 2013

VHDA Wins Four National Housing Awards

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Authority Ranks #1 in Awards for Third Year in a Row 
 The National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) recently presented VHDA with four national awards recognizing outstanding achievement, the most received by any housing finance agency in the nation. This marks the third year in a row we have either won or tied for the top spot in the awards competition.

“While I am very pleased that we received four national awards this year, I am even more pleased that these programs are helping to provide affordable housing that supports strong, safe and sustainable neighborhoods across Virginia,” said VHDA Executive Director Susan Dewey.

Photo credit:Lonely Fox Photography
Top row, L. to R. – Art Bowen, Managing Director of Rental Housing; Dale Wittie, Director of Rental Housing;
Michele Watson, Director of Homeownership Programs; Mike Hawkins, Managing Director of Community Outreach;
Llew Anderson, Director of Executive Services; Brian Matt, Public Relations Manager.
Bottom row, L. to R. - Kit Hale, Chair of the VHDA Board of Commissioners; Margie Leon, VHDA Board Member;
Jackie Black, VHDA Board Member; and Susan Dewey, VHDA Executive Director.

VHDA’s Partnership for Habitat Housing won in the “Encouraging New Production” category, its Maximizing Rural Housing Resources in Virginia program won in the “Preservation and Rehabilitation” category, its South Hampton Roads Regional Supportive Studio Apartment Partnership won in the “Combating Homelessness” category, and its Internal Communications Strategy won in the “Operations” category.

October 30, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Suburban transformation: The Fifth Wave

(RECAP: The U.S. will add a hundred million people in coming decades. As part of a new migration—The Fifth Wave—some will move to cities, but many or most will relocate in suburbs, transforming them and making them more urban.)

Why the “sit-able city” is the next big idea 

(RECAP: The sit-able realm is a place of human universals, broader than the walking that transports us there or passes through. And the sit-able is about far more than street furniture and sidewalk dining, pop-up urbanism and Parking Day.)

Community Development: Let Your Mission Do the Talking

(RECAP: The way “non-profit” deals usually operate, the financiers get the “profit,” the community gets the “non.” It would be much more accurate to describe the work of community developers as “mission-driven,” rather than “non-profit.”)

A Guide to Affordable Dental Care

(RECAP: A new Web site,—and its state-by-state map—aims to make it easier for aging adults and their caregivers to find low-cost dental care nationwide by raising awareness of the patchwork quilt of available services.)

24-Hour Cities: Why Cities Need Nighttime Economies

(RECAP: Montgomery County, Md., is exploring ways to increase nighttime activities and create 24-hour communities with options that could include all-night schools, libraries, bookstores, movie theaters, playhouses and museums. Cities should pay attention.)

October 29, 2013

VHDA as a Public Housing Agency

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Today's blog post comes to us from VHDA's Diana Crosswhite, Policy Specialist for the Housing Choice Voucher Program department, explaining one of VHDA's secondary roles for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Most people are familiar with VHDA as a lending agency that provides mortgage loans for single and multifamily dwellings. However, many may not realize that VHDA also administers a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, which also makes VHDA a public housing agency or PHA, among its many other roles.

Funding for the HCV Program comes directly from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is intended to provide rental assistance to extremely-low and very-low income families. HUD defines an extremely-low income family as earning 30 percent of median family income for an area, and a very-low income family as earning 50 percent of median family income for an area. HUD publishes an updated listing of income limits every year.

In 1976, the Virginia General Assembly asked VHDA to apply for voucher funding on behalf of localities that were not eligible for the HUD program. VHDA contacted each county and city in Virginia to gauge their interest in the HCV Program. The first localities to indicate their interest included Campbell, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Lynchburg and Martinsville. The program grew to serve over 13,000 families by the year 2000. Today, VHDA has a voucher allocation of approximately 9,600 and partners with 32 agencies across Virginia to administer the voucher program.

VHDA is only one of 44 PHAs in Virginia reporting directly to HUD. Many people assume that VHDA has oversight of the other PHAs in Virginia. However, each PHA reports either to the HUD Richmond Field Office or the HUD District of Columbia Field Office. Any questions or concerns related to a particular PHA should be directed to the appropriate HUD field office.
© 2013 VHDA, All Rights Reserved. Please Review the Privacy Policy.

October 23, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Recognizing Lively Urban Spaces as the Heart of Resilient Communities

(RECAP: Based on lessons from recent disasters in Chicago and New York, where lively urban spaces helped communities to survive and recover, Michael Kimmelman suggests that neighborhood libraries could be designed with such a purpose in mind.)

The Past, Present, and Future of Community Development

(RECAP: The field of community development has grown immeasurably since the dark days of top-down policies such as urban renewal. Today it stands on the threshold of new synergies, but it also faces challenges as never before.)

5 Questions for NeighborWorks' Eileen Fitzgerald

(RECAP: This housing and community development organization, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary, continues to be a leading trainer of affordable housing and community development professionals. CEO Eileen Fitzgerald talks about the housing market and issues to watch.)

Could Kit Homes Make a Comeback?

(RECAP: It's interesting to look at housing trends from the past for ideas on how to deal with the housing problems of the present. Very popular from around 1908 until World War II, "kit homes" saved many buyers some 30 percent of the cost of a conventional stick-built home.)

The Power of 10

(RECAP: At the core of the Power of 10 is the idea that any great place needs to offer at least 10 things to do or 10 reasons to be there. Ideally, some of these activities are unique to that particular spot and are interesting enough to keep people coming back.)

October 16, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

12 Policies to Boost Innovation, Resilience & Prosperity in Cities

(RECAP: When citizens and governments plan a city together, a more shareable city is possible. Increased innovation, resilience and prosperity can follow.)

Making Parking Earn its Keep

(RECAP: Valid concerns about congestion, overflow and the impact the increase in residential traffic brings have made downtown parking a hot topic--one that warrants a closer look into what’s happening in parking garages when no one’s around.)

Dialing-in your zoning to fit your community

(RECAP: Conventional zoning is very difficult to adjust to the realities of a community. In fact, it’s adjusted too often and in ways that don’t improve it. So why keep something that’s difficult to adjust when form-based codes (FBC) exist?)

Scrapped public transport bus converted into chic living space

(RECAP: With thousands of public transportation buses going out of circulation annually worldwide, this could be an efficient and stylish way to re-use them.)

Opinion: Why We Can’t Ignore College-Based Senior Cohousing

(RECAP: The connection between campus improvement and retirees may seem distant from one another, but in reality they have a lot in common.)

October 9, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Innovative Solutions for Preserving Affordable Rental Housing

(RECAP: HUD looks at federal solutions (such as the Mark-to-Market program and the Rental Assistance Demonstration pilot program) and local solutions (in cities such as Denver, San Diego and New York) that have proven successful.)

Tactics for Short-Term Community Revitalization

(RECAP: While city leaders devise the solutions for urban revitalization, there’s no reason for residents to sit idly. Instead, residents can get hands-on through displays of “tactical urbanism”. )

Early Funding is Worth its Weight in Gold

(RECAP: Whether flexible funding helps hire a development manager, an architect or exists as an early investment that attracts larger supporters, organizations that are able to secure this kind of financing have the best chance of getting a new affordable rental project done or to sustain an existing one.)

3 Uses for Online Senior Housing Directories

(RECAP: While seniors and their adult children may use online directories at all stages of the search process, here are three phases in which online senior housing directories can be particularly helpful for decision-making.)

Center To Bridge Divide Between Disability Community, Police

(RECAP: Serving as a clearinghouse, this first-of-its-kind national center will offer a resource library, directories of attorneys, victim advocates and other experts, in addition to a database of relevant state laws.)

October 3, 2013

How to Start a Farmer’s Market

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REACH Virginia holds an annual workshop focusing on neighborhood revitalization through housing and economic development. Training emphasizes the importance of building neighborhoods, not just houses, and provides insight into the aspects of a community that planners may not be thinking of in the early stages of development. Existing and future retail is important to a thriving neighborhood and can include a farmer’s market. In this post, Mario Wells of VHDA shares tips to keep in mind if a farmer’s market is part of your neighborhood revitalization plan.

A recent trip to my local farmer’s market helped me re-live my childhood where I would go over to my neighbor’s yard to pick peaches from their tree. The delectable produce and interaction amongst other shoppers at the market made me ponder how this market in particular became successful. Planning a farmer’s market takes know-how, but this form of retail could be lucrative for more than just local farmers; it could also benefit the entire community.

Fresh fruit and vegetables at a farmer's market.

In recent decades, farmer’s markets have again assumed their historic role as important social and economic institutions in many of our communities. Food has been used as a common practice in most cultures to bring people together. In addition, these markets change the mindset of individuals by making shopping a pleasure rather than a chore. Finally, a farmer’s market is the focal point of a community where individuals can bring their friends and families and enjoy a small-town atmosphere.

Here are some steps to keep in mind when starting a farmer’s market:

October 2, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Does real estate have room for crowdfunding?

(RECAP: An editorial in the Atlanta Business Chronicle raises an interesting question: does real estate have room for crowdfunding as a means to raise cash for projects? And if so, where should crowdfunded cash fit into the capital stack of a real estate deal?)

How parking requirements raise rents

(RECAP: Off-street parking requirements increase the per-unit cost for the developer by about 50 percent, raising required rents from about $800/month to $1,200/month. In addition to the elimination of affordable housing, parking requirements also have broad negative economic impacts and contribute to global warming.)

Four Ways Protected Bike Lanes Benefit Businesses

(RECAP: The question isn’t whether your city can afford high-quality bike infrastructure. It’s whether your city can afford not to.)

Designing a Place-Based Plan for Stabilization

(RECAP: Beginning at the citywide or regional level and then drilling down to an individual neighborhood, these eight steps can lead to a realistic plan for stabilizing a targeted neighborhood impacted by foreclosures.)

Is Community Development an Industry—or a Movement?

(RECAP: The challenge before us is not how to make community development more of an industry, but how to do so carefully and consciously without sacrificing what makes our organizations different than those of the “other guys” in government and business.)

September 26, 2013

Parklets Plant Themselves In Public Places

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True story...during that beautiful Friday in Richmond last week, I was out riding my bike during lunch hour. Now, anyone who cycles through city neighborhoods knows that sometimes you’re going to see the unexpected, but I really didn’t expect to see what looked like someone’s back deck resting in a curbside parking zone on Robinson Street. Yet there it was, a wooden deck with plants, a table, big umbrella, and chairs nestled curbside into a space about the size of a big pickup truck. A sign proclaimed that it was a “parklet” and people were sitting in the space talking and relaxing in the shade of the umbrella and trees next to it.
Photo courtesy of Phil Riggan.

September 25, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

The Figuration of Place & the Urban Room

(RECAP: When the ratio of the height of the buildings and the distance that separates them is within whole-number ratios, a powerful and lasting impression is created in our psyche that we term the urban room.)

Yes, Midcentury Buildings Can Be Saved

(RECAP: Does one green approach, density, supersede another green approach -- keeping what's already here?)

The 'cargotecture' movement: 8 amazing examples

(RECAP: The versatility of shipping containers has captured the imagination of architects worldwide who have used them for everything from high-rises to rustic cabins. In fact, there are enough cool container structures around to constitute a movement: Some call it "cargotecture.")

The Mystery Behind America's Decline in Driving

(RECAP: If the decline in driving isn't largely the result of the recession, then transportation planners might want to think twice before assuming driving miles will rebound if the economy picks up.)

Infographic: How 10 Historical Planners Have Shaped Today’s Cities

(RECAP: Throughout history, urban planners have presented different ideas on how to design successful cities, and their impact is still being felt today.)

September 18, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

The Various Sticks and Carrots for Putting Unused Land to Use

(RECAP: In cities with so much vacant land that much of it doesn’t have any market at all, changing the way in which property gets assessed could make it more likely that land is put to better use.)

Productive Landscapes in Urban Areas

(RECAP: An element of sustainable urban design, interlinked productive landscapes in cities are changing the way food is produced on a global scale, while increasing the quality of life for those involved and encouraging urban regeneration, self-reliance and social inclusion.)

17 Tips for Getting More Pinterest Followers for Your Nonprofit

(RECAP: An effective Pinterest strategy demands an investment of time and involves a lot of trial and error, but the results for your nonprofit can be astounding when it comes to raising awareness, spreading information and soliciting funds.)

Park by Swarm

(RECAP: What if communities formed new parks when they needed them? What if these parks could be formed by swarms of bicycles?)

September 17, 2013

Bringing Biking Into The Building Cycle

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I recently came across a neat article written by Sarah Goodyear for the Atlantic Cities website that highlighted “10 Brilliant Pieces of Bike Infrastructure.” What struck me about the article was the way that the examples of adding bike elements to neighborhood/city infrastructures across the world definitely could be implemented in urban and suburban development in Virginia. These are ideas that go much further than bike racks and lanes.

September 11, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Intergenerational Ingenuity: Mixing Age Groups in Affordable Housing

(RECAP: A nonprofit organization has built an urban solution that addresses the problem of age segregation for seniors while brightening the prospects of families who adopt children out of the foster care system.)

How to Sell Developers and Employers on Transit-Oriented Development

(RECAP: Multifamily residential developers, redevelopment specialists and large corporate office tenants already show strong interest in transit-accessible sites. But they often get thwarted by high land costs and needlessly complex regulations.)

Live Out Your Urban Planning God Complex With a New App Called Streetmix

(RECAP: This app’s value lies in making it easy to visualize proposed changes to a street. Not only is it helpful for planners, residents can use Streetmix to show planning officials just what, exactly, they want their streets to look — or why they are coming out against a planning project.)

Non-Profits on Facebook

(RECAP: Facebook is directly catering to non-profits with a resource page,, specifically to help them use the site. It includes the latest examples of how many organizations are using Facebook today.)

How Fruit Trees Are Growing Communities

(RECAP: A global grass roots movement has identified a very effective ingredient for building community: Fruit. What do the untapped fruit trees of the world have to do with community? Everything.)

September 4, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Who's Returning To The City

(RECAP: Are children, Millennials and baby boomers returning to cities? The best answer: sometimes, sometimes, and maybe not.)

Walkability, but hold the red tape

(RECAP: Urbanists must adopt less bureaucratic approaches so the next generation can build and grow the economy. Hence the proliferation of “lean” codes that emphasize only the essentials of shaping community.)

A Retirement Home for the Homeless

(RECAP: The goal of a ground-breaking pilot program called Elder Care Health Outreach (ECHO) is to provide better care to an at-risk population, reduce health-care costs and emergency room visits and enable these seniors with a way to "age in place.")

How nonprofits are saving run-down homes

(RECAP: Housing organizations across the country are salvaging blighted houses, preserving their historic character and preparing them to withstand years of future use.)

Media Facades: Building Facades Become Urban Communicators 

(RECAP: “Mediatecture” is being seen as the forerunner of buildings that can actively change and adapt themselves. In this respect, their future potential is not to be underestimated.)

September 3, 2013

What Do The Numbers Really Mean?

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A recent article from the Center for Housing Policy’s Housing Landscape 2013 entitled, “More than a quarter of working renter households spend at least half of income on housing,” prompted a discussion with colleagues about data and definitions. When you sit down to read an article of this nature, you must keep in mind the author’s intention of the article, whether the sources of data are reliable, what the definitions of the variables are and how the data is interpreted (calculated) and presented.

When it comes to affordable housing and how much of our income we spend on housing, there are many definitions and many interpretations.  At the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the generally accepted definition of affordability is for a household to pay no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing.

August 28, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Lessons from Arlington, VA

(RECAP: The transformation of a suburban community into a model of effective urban planning and a model for maintaining a high quality of life in the face of tremendous growth and change.)

Revitalization Outlook: What Strategies Can Help Make Urban Cores More Vibrant?

(RECAP: Members of ULI’s Urban Revitalization Council discuss ways to catalyze investment and development in the urban core, the demographic factors influencing the popularity of urban living and how different sectors of the real estate market are faring in the urban core.)

Five Fantastic Ideas for Public Furniture in Cities

(RECAP: The ability of great public furniture to inspire innovation and pride can uplift a community and revitalize public spaces.)

Growing a Stronger Nonprofit Housing Sector

(RECAP: High-capacity nonprofit housing enterprises that can achieve efficiencies of scale have an important role to play in addressing the affordable housing crisis and policy makers should help them do so.)

How One Group of Seniors Bucked Convention and Avoided the Retirement Home

(RECAP: A non-profit membership organization that provides free or low-cost services to seniors who have chosen to live in their own homes may be the answer for millions of baby-boomers.)

August 22, 2013

Developing for small spaces; innovative design with space in mind

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If you have all of the land and money needed to develop homes or apartments, you may not be thinking less is more. However, urban development and affordable housing often call for maximizing every inch of a home. Renters and homeowners would prefer not to do without necessities, so how do you fit it all in a small space? Check out this article by Megan Durisin over at Business Insider. It features minimalist millionaire Graham Hill’s “LifeEdited” apartment in SoHo Manhattan. Hill has gotten a lot of publicity for this living space and philosophy of late, having abandoned the typical mansion-full-of-stuff lifestyle that he tried on after selling a tech startup for great big wheelbarrows of cash (estimated).

August 21, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Ft. Belvoir: Pioneering the U.S. Military’s Brand of Smart Growth

(RECAP: As the U.S. military infuses smart growth principles into theplanning for its bases, leaders can learn from one facility that's been able to accommodate dramatic growth with smart planning and innovative initiatives.)

Moving Poor People Into a Neighborhood Doesn't Cause Crime

(RECAP: Here’s hard proof that there's no relationship between housing vouchers and higher crime at the city level or in the suburbs.)

Getting Back in Shape: Guidelines for Improving the Fitness of Established Nonprofit Organizations

(RECAP: Even if your organization has "been around for a while" there’s still room for building capacity to achieve greater impact and ensure sustainability.)

200 years of LEED (or 20 historic buildings you probably didn’t know were green)

(RECAP: Incredible examples of how historic preservation and environmental sustainability can work hand in hand, and how saving the past can enrich the future.)’t-know-were-green?utm_source=NationalTrust&utm_medium=crosspost&utm_campaign=LEED_200yrs

Hoarders: How Cities Intervene

(RECAP: Task force teams that combine mental health experts, police, building and health department inspectors, and experts on aging can bring understanding and compassion, while benefiting the community at large.)

August 19, 2013

Virginia Downtown Development Association - Fostering Vibrant Economic Development in Historic Downtowns

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The Virginia Downtown Development Association (VDDA) was established more than 30 years ago as an independent organization with the mission to “bring attention to the significance of historic downtowns to Virginia's economic vitality and to enhance the effectiveness of organizations, individuals and communities to foster vibrant economic development.”

VDDA provides valuable training and networking opportunities for developers who use VHDA financing for affordable housing and mixed-use development in downtown districts. Virginia’s downtowns play an important role in the economic health of their communities, and downtown redevelopment efforts offer new opportunities to add high-quality, affordable housing in those areas. VHDA is proud to be a long-term supporter of VDDA’s efforts.

August 14, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Redesigning American Cities for Less Driving

(RECAP: How to redesign cities to make them less auto-dependent and match the cultural shift away from cars, particularly with Millennials.)

Scale, Schmale. What About Impact?

(RECAP: If you think what’s wrong with CDCs today is their failure to “go to scale,” you are looking in the fundamentally wrong direction, asking the wrong questions.)

What's Next for the Sharing Movement?

(RECAP: Millions of people are waking up to the potential of sharing. Cities are waking up to it too – the mayors of 15 major cities recently signed a Shareable Cities Resolution promising to advance the sharing economy in their cities.)

Eight Imaginative Projects Reusing Infrastructure in Cities

(RECAP: Finding more and better ways to repurpose telephone booths, billboard signs, construction scaffolding, bus shelters and even parking meters to better serve citizens in the 21st century.)

August 7, 2013

Beyond Bricks & Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Three Strategies for Refueling Abandoned Gas Stations

(RECAP: In terms of the sustainable city’s built environment and local land use decisions, gas stations couldn’t play a more central role.)

Postwar neighborhoods are key to suburban revitalization

(RECAP: The nation has a huge quantity of “Leave it to Beaver” neighborhoods from the postwar housing boom that are ripe for changes that will make them more walkable and appealing to new generations of residents.)

Nonprofit Advocacy is EASY

(RECAP: How easy is it? Well, the highly paid professionals don’t want this to get out, but it is so easy that even a first grader can do it!)

The Rise of Virtual Retirement Villages

(RECAP: The notion of virtual retirement communities, known as “villages,” started with one group of seniors in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston in 2001. Today, there are more than 100 villages in nearly 40 states.)

August 6, 2013

Three Questions with Mary Kay Horoszewski

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Today's blog post is a Q&A with Mary Kay Horoszewski, Executive Director of the Virginia Beach Community Development Corporation.

How did you get involved in the affordable housing industry?
Mary Kay Horoszewski, Executive Director of the Virginia Beach Community Development Corporation

I have been in the affordable housing field since 1977, when I started with a county redevelopment authority as a “housing rehabilitation specialist.” One of my first jobs was to estimate damages to residential properties that were damaged in a severe flood that hit in July of that year. Seventy-eight people were killed, and many hundreds had their homes destroyed or severely damaged. I liked the work and I liked the people I dealt with, so I continued on that path until this very day.

July 31, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Denver’s Making Public Housing Desirable

(RECAP: Once it is completed in 2018, Denver’s newest development will promote healthy living, mass transit and energy efficiency. It also happens to be public housing.)

Community Development Corporations at a Crossroads

(RECAP: Like all other housing producers, CDCs now face the sobering prospect of a housing market permanently altered by devastating price declines, lost equity, imbalances of supply and demand, financial uncertainty and mounting pressure from a rapidly aging population.)

How to Organize a Citywide Garage Sale

(RECAP: Now in its 23nd year, the El Cerrito, California, citywide garage sale is more popular than ever. Its planners offer step-by-step instructions for those who’d like to try this type of event in their community.)

Seven features of an age-in-place community

(RECAP: Will your community be a good one in which to age in place? If it has these seven features, the answer is probably “yes.”)

July 24, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Sustainability and the urban commons

(RECAP: These places of shared interest are critically important to the urban environment and must be nurtured, protected and, in many cases, improved.)

The Rolls-Royce of Private Partnerships

(RECAP: A new building in Virginia symbolizes a radical shift in economic development, and illustrates that it’s better to build assets than give money to companies.)

New CDC Trade Association Lays Infrastructure

(RECAP: PLACE, Practitioners Leveraging Assets for Community Enhancement, is a new trade association focused on increasing the visibility of locally based affordable housing and community development practitioners, and on creating a unified advocacy voice.)

Senior Housing Logistics: A Mobile Strategy

(RECAP: For those in the senior housing business and those considering entering it, one of the most important and growing aspects of the business today is mobility. This opportunity has nothing to do with iPhone or Android apps.)

July 17, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Building the indestructible metropolis 

(RECAP: A number of design competitions have sprung up in the past few months asking for "extreme weather architecture" solutions that could become the new standard for communities building in disaster-prone regions.)

Urban sustainability: what will a smart city look like in the future?

(RECAP: By 2050 there will be five billion urbanites. With pressure on resources and climate disruption, new technology and conceptual design will be more important than ever.)

Disruptions: How driverless cars could reshape cities

(RECAP: With many scientists and car companies expecting self-driving cars to become commonplace in the next decade, researchers, city planners and engineers are contemplating how city spaces could change if our cars start doing the driving for us.)

A new way to diffuse NIMBYism?

(RECAP: Can affordable housing developers shift the NIMBY discourse by joining forces with market-rate developers of adjacent properties? A fascinating story of NIMBYism diffused in Somerville, Mass., suggests they might.)

Introducing the retirement commune

(RECAP: It may be time to start calling the “Me Generation” the “We Generation.” Aging in community, rather than all alone, is going to make the boomers’ experience of old age different than anything that ever came before.)

July 10, 2013

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Top 5 Elements of Mixed-Use Projects

(RECAP: Regardless of differences in basic definition, most mixed-use projects share some key elements. These reflect trends have coalesced over time and now characterize the mixed-use approach.)

Better Government through Better Metrics

(RECAP: Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones wants to tackle the city’s entrenched poverty, and he wants to do it by investing smartly in community revitalization efforts. The big question is, what works?)

Community Development Learning: When, Where and How You Need It

(RECAP: In response to the increased demand for high-quality community development training, NeighborWorks America presents “place-based” training, conducted by request and with support from client/partner organizations in communities across the country.)

Monitoring Could be Next Senior Care Breakthrough

(RECAP: Researchers have realized it’s possible to leverage Wi-Fi signals to detect a person’s movements within the confines of their homes—something they expect their project, dubbed WiSee, will play a pivotal role in as the nation’s senior population wishes to age in place.)

July 3, 2013

Beyond Bricks & Sticks

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Beyond Bricks & Sticks. A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Why Mixed-Use is in Demand 

(RECAP: The demand for mixed-use development and urban living by Generation Y and lower-income groups is squeezing out the appeal of suburbia.)

Developers Find Public Benefits Are Sweetening Senior Living Deals

(RECAP: More and more, the best senior living developers are engaging community leaders early to focus on the synergies that can be created when developers and communities collaborate.)

Land in Conflict: How Planners Can Better Manage an Increasingly Contentious Public Process

(RECAP: A new approach to resolving land use disputes based on mutual gains may provide a better way to manage the most challenging situations.)

June 25, 2013

Recap of What’s Ahead for Housing: A Symposium on Federal Housing Policy Change - Hosted by Housing Virginia

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On Friday, June 14, Housing Virginia hosted its first Symposium on Federal Housing Policy Change at the Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville with almost 200 housing executives and officials in attendance! Kicked off by Kit Hale, the Chair of Housing Virginia, the action-packed agenda included a video presentation featuring Senator Mark Warner; the view from Washington with a panel of national housing experts; the view from Richmond with Susan Dewey, VHDA and Bill Shelton, DHCD; a working lunch with HUD Deputy Secretary, Maurice Jones; and three breakout sessions on critical affordable housing topics.

June 19, 2013

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Beyond Bricks & Sticks. A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

How Better Traffic Models Can Lead to More Mixed-Use Development 

(RECAP: The EPA worked with transportation researchers around the United States to develop a better traffic prediction model for mixed-used development. Virginia has adopted it.)

Addressing Housing Affordability Using Cooperatives 

(RECAP: What if we could create more forms of cooperative housing to make sure families have the opportunity to own a home and at the same time have a certain amount of mobility?)

Old-Age Adaptation: Our Next Great Urban Challenge 

(RECAP: How do you get urban planners, transportation engineers and anyone running around a city in their prime to picture the places we live through the shaded eyes of an octogenarian?)

Finding Allies in the Sequester 

(RECAP: There are two good things to say about the sequester. First, it can be a call to action. Second, the shared predicament presents an opportunity for new alliances.)

June 12, 2013

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Beyond Bricks & Sticks. A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Selling the Public on Public Housing

(RECAP: Funded by Housing Authority Insurance, Inc., which provides insurance to public and affordable housing projects, ReThink aims to educate Americans about the benefits of public housing not only for the people who live in it, but for society as a whole.)


Disruptions: Helper Robots Are Steered, Tentatively, to Care for the Aging

(RECAP: The technology is nearly there. But some researchers worry we’re not asking a fundamental question: Should we entrust the care of people in their 70s and older to artificial assistants?)


Mixed-Income Community Dynamics: Five Insights From Ethnography

(RECAP: Mixed-income neighborhoods have become objects of policy and research attention. Ethnographic methods, a form of qualitative research defined by in-depth observations of social settings, offer an important complement to this quantitative research.)


Study Points To Disability Housing Crisis

(RECAP: Housing is out of reach for many with disabilities, with a new report finding that though costs varied by location, rents for even the smallest apartments accounted for at least 60 percent of SSI payments in every state.)