November 4, 2014

A Mobile Education in Affordable Housing

Today’s post is provided by VHDA’s Jessica Braden, an Asset Manager in our Rental Housing division. 

Did you hear about the VHDA bus tour? The bus was filled to a cozy capacity and we made the news!

On October 6, VHDA gave a mobile tour of affordable housing communities in Roanoke to support the 109th Virginia Municipal League annual conference which focused on several properties downtown. I had the pleasure of hosting the tour along with Mike Hawkins, our Managing Director of Community Outreach, who you can see in the Channel 7 news clip. The tour’s goal was to educate local government officials about affordable housing, the programs offered by VHDA to facilitate development of affordable communities, and the positive impacts these communities have in localities across Virginia.

Roanoke is one of VHDA’s success stories in assisting with the revitalization of historic downtown districts. Many historic factories, hotels, storefronts and warehouses have been brought back to life as mixed-use/mixed-income (MUMI) properties with affordable housing components. Our Roanoke tour included repurposed buildings such as the Cotton Mill, the Roanoke River House and the Patrick Henry Hotel. We extend a big “thank you” to Michelle Rose and the folks at City Space, LLC for accommodating our planned (and impromptu) visits at the Patrick Henry and Cotton Mill Lofts.

During the tour, conversations revolved around a few key themes: Who lives in these properties? What are the maximum income limits? Are they occupied with a waiting list? The featured MUMI properties downtown have apartments available within several income limits: 80% AMI, 120% AMI and unrestricted. This enables residents and families of varied earning abilities and backgrounds to live downtown, and often walk or bike along the greenway to work. For instance, we shared the story of a resident who had previously been commuting 45 minutes each way to Roanoke from Bedford for a service sector job. She now lives in one of the VHDA-financed MUMI communities and can walk to work. What a huge change in a person’s quality of life!

This affordability and convenience means healthy waiting lists at these downtown deals are the norm, and they drive the properties to achieve their annual financial goals. This in turn reflects positively in the local economy and tax revenues.

All sounds good and well in Roanoke, but how about the big question: Can this be done in your town? Yes, it can. VHDA can scale our programs to fit the smallest of towns or the largest of cities. We thrive on challenges and new ideas, and we have case studies that include Floyd, Lexington, Richmond and beyond to prove it. We even have grants to help you get started. How easy is that?

You can read more about some of the properties featured in the tour in the November 2013 edition of Virginia Town and City Magazine. To start your own success story, contact our Community Outreach department at 804-343-5735.
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