February 28, 2013

The Harvest Project: “Your church’s land…your congregation’s vision”

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Photo not for reuse or reproduction.

It’s said that faith can move a mountain. And if that “mountain” is finding a way to use land a congregation already owns to build affordable housing, our faith-based initiative can help make it happen. Since 2008, VHDA’s Harvest Project has been assisting congregations that want to use their land to construct affordable single family homes or accessible housing for seniors. Whether the congregation’s vision is to buy existing housing to rehabilitate, to tackle the challenge of revitalizing their older, urban communities or to simply help members of their community prepare to buy and own a home, the Harvest Project is a partner it can count on.

February 26, 2013

Redefining Affordable Housing Nirvana

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The Crossings at Fourth and Preston. 
Scott Medina Photography (804) 299-2191
I’ve heard it said that “affordable housing nirvana” is reached when the number of different sources of funding for a project exceeds the number of units being created. Those of us familiar with affordable housing development may chuckle (or wince) at that definition, but it is true that the sheer difficulty in putting these deals together is not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, some goals – such as permanent supportive housing— are worth, and indeed demand, an extraordinary effort.  Permanent supportive housing follows the "housing first" model that takes a person from the street directly into housing. This provides a stable environment for the individual to address their needs.

February 21, 2013

Overcoming Barriers to Homeownership with VIDA

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First-time homebuyer Donna Scaturro
and her new home. Ms. Scaturro received
funding from the FHA loan program, a
VHDA Homebuyer Club and VIDA.

If someone you know is thinking of buying their first home and has been doing some research about financing options, chances are they’ve heard how difficult it is to get a mortgage loan without a sterling credit score and lots of cash for a down payment.  While financial institutions have definitely tightened up their mortgage lending criteria, there are still a variety of excellent options available to first-time homebuyers—options you might want to share with them.

February 19, 2013

What Mixed-use Planning Looks Like

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Renovations give 21st century look to 1920s homes on Keswick Street. 
Planning funding made possible by the MUMI planning grant.
VHDA’s REACH Virginia team has a variety of tools to help our municipal partners target appropriate affordable housing opportunities. One example is our Mixed-use/Mixed-income (MUMI) planning grant. This tool offers modest (typically $10,000) grants to help municipalities plan for mixed-use developments that include an element of affordable housing. Glancing at the list of past recipients, it’s easy to see this grant has been a popular tool for more than one urban redevelopment project! In these instances, VHDA played a role in the redevelopment of many historically significant buildings by enabling Virginia downtowns to effectively combine new residential apartments with sought after commercial and retail space.

February 17, 2013

Community Lodgings Has a “Brand New” Building | ACTion Alexandria

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Community Lodgings Has a “Brand New” Building | ACTion Alexandria

Community Lodgings will open the doors of the affordable apartments at 612 Notabene Drive at the grand opening and dedication on February 20th and you're invited. The building has been transformed with the help of several community businesses and organizations to provide a "clean, safe home for local families."

Check out the difference Community Lodgings is making.

Grand opening and dedication of Community Lodging's affordable apartments
February 20, 2013, 10:00 a.m.

612 Notabene Dr
Alexandria, VA 22305

February 14, 2013

Introducing SPARC Multifamily Financing

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The alphabet soup of acronyms is an all too familiar part of the affordable housing industry.  

VHDA-funded SPARC loans covered a portion 
of Cloverleaf Apartments, one of Virginia
Supportive Housing's permanent supportive
From RD, HUD and DHCD to LIHTC, NOFA and CBC -- each of these acronyms identifies an agency, delineates a program and/or classifies policy. While sometimes overwhelming, this acronym catalogue of resources is critical to the mission of providing of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households.

As diverse housing needs continue to grow across Virginia, one tool that has become a crucial affordable housing lever is VHDA’s Sponsoring Partnerships for Affordable Community Housing program, or SPARC. SPARC’s below market rate loans provide permanent mortgage financing to support developments that meet some of the state’s most critical housing needs. The program is funded by VHDA’s earnings through the support of the Resources Enabling Affordable Community Housing (REACH) initiative.

February 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.

General Housing

New report finds no evidence to discredit CRA in subprime housing boom—again

(RECAP: A new report from the UNC Center for Community Capital shows an overwhelming body of research demonstrating that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) encourages safe, affordable lending. The UNC report notes that the CRA has come under attack before and the claims against it debunked by researchers and industry experts time and time again.)

Housing with Services

Cost Savings Seen in NCR Housing Model

(RECAP: A National Church Residences (NCR) model combining assisted living with services for low-income seniors saves the state of Ohio $73.08 per person per day in Medicaid costs over living in a nursing facility, reveals a new study. A leading affordable housing developer, NCR has been piloting a new model in the state by using multiple funding sources to create an “assisted-living level of housing that also includes on-site health-care services.”)                             http://www.housingfinance.com/senior-housing/cost-savings-seen-in-ncr-housing-model.aspx

Neighborhood Transformation

 Why 3D Modeling Will Play a Huge Role in Tackling Rapid Urbanization

(RECAP: 3D simulations of cities have the potential to help engineers and planners anticipate natural disasters and population growth, and to better plan for them in a way that goes far beyond rendering cityscapes as if they were in a video game.)

Community Investment

Serving Rural America

(RECAP: Rural housing projects are often smaller than developments built in other markets. Although it may seem like a small deal would be easier to put together and finance, it's usually the opposite. They're harder to do. Still, even though small towns present challenges, developers are overcoming them to provide housing.)

Strengthening Capacity

Putting Solar Energy Use on the Local Policy Agenda

(RECAP: One of the core purposes of local planning is facilitating the development or protection of community resources. However, relatively few communities acknowledge solar energy as a resource comparable to other local resources such as water or historical buildings. As a consequence, some cities and counties across the country have been caught flat-footed by proposals for new solar farms or by a sharp uptick in permit applications for new rooftop solar installations.)

February 12, 2013

New Washington Area Affordable Housing Communications Network Formed

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Sharing the benefits of affordable housing success stories is soon to be reality. 

The Communication Action Network
(CAN) of Greater Washington seeks to
share news that demonstrates how quality,
 affordable workforce/housing contributes
to our communities and economy.
There’s been a longstanding need in the Washington region for an area-wide cooperative effort to communicate on important affordable/workforce housing issues. Now, thanks to a United Way grant, BB&T Community Development Banking and three Washington area affordable/workforce housing non-profit organizations have taken the lead in the communications arena by forming the Communication Action Network (CAN). These organizations are the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development in Washington DC, the Washington Area Housing Association of Non Profit Developers (HAND) and the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance (NVAHA).  Just FYI — VHDA is a longstanding sponsor of both HAND and NVAHA.

With support from business, community organizations and individuals, CAN is preparing to share on a variety of platforms news that demonstrates how quality affordable/workforce housing contributes to our communities and economy, with a goal of creating an environment of acceptance for producing and preserving the housing that sustains communities. In addition, CAN is also  maintaining an online calendar of affordable housing events, pertinent legislative timetables and key meetings, as well as an online library of current research and a wide variety of other affordable/workforce housing information.

February 7, 2013

Co-Housing – Turning Apartment Living into a Communal Experience

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Imagine living in a neighborhood where you—as a resident—will have the autonomy to design and operate your own neighborhood.

Photo not for reuse or reproduction.
Within this neighborhood design, residents live and interact with one another through access to extensive common facilities such as an open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house. This enriched social environment is known as co-housing. Currently, there are several co-housing developments in the U.S., including seven within Virginia. Co-housing communities are usually designed as attached or single family homes along one or more pedestrian streets, or clustered around a courtyard.  Although they range in size from seven to 67 residences, the majority of these neighborhoods are made up of 20 to 40 households. Regardless of the neighborhood’s size, community members are expected to take care of and use common property located within the development. This shared responsibility and usage creates opportunities for social interaction.

Co-housing in Greater Richmond

Recently, an event was held in the Greater Richmond area to provide a platform for people to thoughtfully discuss how co-housing can improve the quality of life in the immediate Richmond area. While there were no finalized plans to develop a project, there seems to be some interest in possibly developing a project within the Old Manchester area in proximity to public transportation. During the discussion, The ElderSpirit Community in Abingdon, was highlighted as a case study. This housing development was built by the Federation of Community in Service (FOCIS) to create a co-housing community that offers support and late-life spirituality for those 55 years of age and over. Throughout the development phase, an advisory board, architects, prospective residents and the Trailview Development Corporation shared their input with the development. This VHDA-financed development was completed in 2006 with 29 mixed-income housing units.

Why co-housing?

February 6, 2013

Linking Housing Policy and Implementation

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In 1972, VHDA was created by the
Commonwealth of Virginia as a
not-for-profit housing finance
agency. Shown: The first building at
5th & Franklin Streets.
Some might say that a Virginia housing policy got its start in 1970 with the creation of the Virginia Housing Study Commission to address Virginia’s severe shortage of quality, affordable housing.  The Commission’s first recommendations to the General Assembly in 1972 led to the creation of  VHDA, a statewide Building Code, and other landmark housing legislation.  VHDA provided the Commonwealth with a means of harnessing substantial private capital to address Virginia’s pressing housing needs. Substantial new affordable housing was needed to replace poor quality rental housing and help revitalize declining neighborhoods, and first-time homebuyers needed a leg up in affording rising interest rates.

Over time, housing needs have changed.  Poor quality housing has been reduced, but community revitalization remains an ongoing issue, and affordability has become an increasing challenge.  As Virginia has grown, its affordable housing needs have become more regionally diverse.  

That brings us to April 2010, when Governor Bob McDonnell issued Executive Order Number 10 to establish the first administrative “Housing Policy Framework” for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Governor’s directive outlined four principles that provide the foundation to craft recommendations and actions to implement a State Housing Policy. These four principles promote:

1. The integration of housing, employment and transportation efforts.
2. The development of sustainable and vibrant communities through measures that promote mixed-use development, increase energy efficiency, and support the rehabilitation of substandard housing.
3. A range of housing options to meet the housing needs of a dynamic and changing population, including accessible housing opportunities.
4. An increase in capacity to address the needs of homeless Virginians.

February 4, 2013

Contact Us

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Each week we will share insight from a VHDA Associate. Feel free to contact us by email at any time for more information. We also encourage you to respond to the blog through comments.

Welcome to discuss.design.develop.

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We hope you will use this blog to contribute to discussions on affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization in Virginia.
The main categories we will focus on include strengthening capacity, community investment, housing with services and neighborhood transformation.

Though this blog is hosted by VHDA, all are welcome to contribute to the conversation through commenting.
For more information about this blog, visit the aboutresources and disclaimer sections.