April 24, 2014

VHDA Construction Control Officers: Ensuring Rental Housing is a Community Asset

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This article, written by Ann Brown, originally appeared in Virginia Town and City – The magazine of the Virginia Municipal League, November 2013 edition.

An affordable rental housing community has been approved. What’s next? When the developer is using Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) financing or VHDA-allocated Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), it’s not what, but who. Apartment construction is complex, and community expectations are high. Reputations, money and high quality standards are on the line with every project. VHDA’s experienced construction control officers make sure those things are protected — along with the needs of potential residents.

April 22, 2014

EarthCraft for Earth Day: Revisiting Our Q&A

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In honor of Earth Day, we’re sharing our Q&A series with EarthCraft Virginia Executive Director, KC Bleile (formerly McGurren). Find out about EarthCraft and the work they do to advance sustainable, affordable and energy efficient construction through education and technical support.

Read Part 1


Continue Reading Part 2


April 17, 2014

Raising the Bar for Rental Community Quality: VHDA Certified Property Managers Make a Difference

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This article, written by Ann Brown, originally appeared in Virginia Town and City – The magazine of the Virginia Municipal League, November 2013 edition.

“There goes the neighborhood.” It’s not a comment municipal leaders and property developers ever want to hear, especially when it’s made about a much anticipated affordable housing complex. It’s also a comment that’s much less likely to be heard when members of the property’s management team are Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) certified professionals.

April 11, 2014

Building Capacity One Step at a Time

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There are several organizations that come to mind for their expertise in housing development, housing programs and resources that they provide to the community. Not because these organizations are my favorite or even most popular – rather, because they are known for their successful operations and strong reputations in their areas of expertise.

Capacity building is a term used in the non-profit world to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization for sustainability. Over the last couple of years, many organizations have been unable to maintain a level of sustainability due to the economic crisis or budgetary constraints. So how does an organization build its capacity to succeed?  The following comes to mind:

April 9, 2014

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.

Infographic: The Why & How of Community Land Trusts

(RECAP: If you want help wrapping your brain around CLT funding, ownership and governance, you’re in luck. Community-Wealth.org just put out this infographic to break down the basics.)

A New Urban Revitalization Model for New Times 

(RECAP: How is it that so many of the recent theories or models on effective urban revitalization absolutely fail to connect with minorities, especially African-Americans? In reality, they need to re-evaluate their mission, goals and message.)

You Know Bicycling Is Good for Your City. Now Prove It to the Skeptics.

(RECAP: Jack Wells, chief economist at U.S. DOT and an architect of the innovative TIGER grant program, has concrete advice for people applying for grants for bike projects. Projects that can quantify their benefits in dollars and cents have a sizable advantage — especially if those benefits accrue not just to the cycling community, but to everyone.)

Keeping Cities from Becoming “Child-Free Zones”

(RECAP: The need for more and better places to play is slowly becoming part of the national conversation about urban revival. With kids on the decline in urban areas, cities can make themselves more attractive to young families by building more playgrounds.)

Add a Piano to Make Your City Square Sing

(RECAP: In 2009, Denver started adding public pianos along its busy mile-long downtown pedestrian mall. The pianos have become a popular and noticeable part of that city's public realm.)

Impact Investing

(RECAP: New sources of mission-driven private capital could step up to support community development where traditional sources of financing are withdrawing.)

April 8, 2014

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.

Can Intersections Lead to Stronger Neighborhoods & Empowered Residents?

(RECAP: In Portland, Oregon, thanks to a nonprofit called City Repair and thousands of citizen participants, intersections have become community gathering spaces. What’s more, this intersection transformation is spreading to other cities across North America.)

Data Dashboard

(RECAP: Created to help researchers, reporters and residents understand how their local areas are changing, the new MetroTrends Data Dashboard transforms complex datasets into easily accessible, interactive charts and maps. Data are available on the local level, with comparisons to the U.S. as a whole.)

Is There a Better Model for Housing Vouchers?

(RECAP: A new article suggests that a cocktail of intensive counseling, aggressive landlord outreach and slightly higher financial aid may help more housing voucher programs succeed.)

Building the Facebook of Neighborhoods

(RECAP: Nearly a third of Americans can’t pick out a single person in their neighborhood by name. Nextdoor’s gamble is that the Internet can be the go-to online social network for the people we live among—the missing bridge between us and those with whom we share a spot on the map.)

10 Lessons in More Engaging Citizen Engagement

(RECAP: As more people choose to live in cities, local governments find themselves facing increasingly complex issues in city-making. Smart cities realize engaging the broad public in the city-making process leads to better answers and a deeper public ownership of our future.)

Seniors Rush to Yoga

(RECAP: Andrew J. Carle, director of the Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University, said an increasing number of [Virginia] retirement communities are offering yoga classes as part of their fitness programs. "The future of senior housing will include science-based wellness activities like yoga.")

Placemaking Finds a Place in the Community

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People interested in community development and improvement may know the term “placemaking,” but if you aren’t familiar with it, you’re sure to hear more about it soon. 

“Placemaking is one of those easily digestible, but difficult to define, concepts about making public space less about the physical design and more about creating a place for a community,” says Beth Seward, VHDA’s REACH Director. 

These projects often focus on repurposing a public space, like turning under-utilized space into a community space whether it’s temporary or permanent, such as the parklet projects we highlighted on this blog last September.

April 3, 2014

Chatting with Karen Wilds of NNRHA

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We recently had the opportunity to have a brief chat with Karen R. Wilds, Executive Director of the Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority (NNRHA). Wilds provided her take on how redevelopment and public housing resources have evolved and will continue to change over the years.

What are some of the major changes you have seen during your career in the redevelopment and housing authority industry in Virginia?

I began my career in the redevelopment and housing industry in 1979 at the Chesapeake, Virginia Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

The major changes I’ve seen since that time are the reduction of resources and the diminution of powers to get our jobs done. It is essential that every project developed now have numerous partners and funding sources. Early in my career, HUD provided development funds to create new public housing. Now, leveraging and private sector involvement is critical to the development of affordable housing.

April 2, 2014

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 Theory Behind NIMBYism

(RECAP: There is a widespread cultural assumption that we have a property right to veto whatever happens within a few blocks of our homes, even if we did not pay for the property in question. Where did this idea come from?)

Why patient and sustainable neighborhood building is so hard today

(RECAP: The public and private sectors each need to learn some lessons from the ways most great old places developed because those ways are far more sustainable and require a lot less debt. Here are six forces at work today that prevent us from building patient and sustainable places.)

Investing in Community Land Trusts

(RECAP: Over the past four decades, the community land trust movement has grown steadily in the US. Why have funders embraced CLTs? To answer that question, the National Housing Institute interviewed 15 funders from 13 foundations whose scope ranges from local, to state, to regional and national.)

Fifteen of the Best Quotes About Cities

(RECAP: Sometimes the words of others bring something valuable and unique to a discussion, even though they’ve already been said before.)

Seniors Create Their Own Communities in Cities

(RECAP: Naturally occurring retirement communities aren't purposely built for seniors. Rather, they evolve naturally, as adult residents age in place. As more and more seniors create NORCs, cities are being forced to rethink zoning laws and how they provide services.)

RFP for Rural Communities Facing Design Challenges

(RECAP: The Citizens' Institute on Rural Design™(CIRD)—a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts—is selecting communities to host CIRD workshops, supported through a $7,000 cash award and in-kind technical assistance and design expertise valued at $35,000. Deadline to submit an application to host a 2014/2015 workshop is May 6, 2014.)