December 9, 2019

Acquire, Renovate, Sell: New Program Gives First-time Homebuyers More and Better Options

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First-time homebuyers in Virginia now have a larger pool of homes to choose from, thanks to a program introduced recently by VHDA and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The program is called Acquire-Renovate-Sell (ARS), and as its name implies, it has three distinct parts:

  • First, a property is acquired by a nonprofit organization, private developer or local government that’s been vetted by DHCD.
  • Next, the property is renovated, using funds advanced by VHDA.
  • Finally, the property is placed on the market for purchase by a first-time homebuyer.

After the sale, some of the proceeds are recycled back through the program, enabling other properties to be renovated and sold. 

Without the renovations made possible by ARS, most of these homes would have limited or no resale value. Funds for renovations are allocated through REACH Virginia, a VHDA self-funded program that provides money to help meet the state’s most critical housing needs.

Properties eligible for the ARS program are single-family detached homes, townhouses and condominiums, including foreclosed properties. Each home may receive up to $45,000 in ARS funds to pay for improvements and associated costs. Funds can be used for renovations to make the home more livable, energy-efficient or commercially viable, especially upgrades to plumbing and electrical systems, doors, windows, flooring and appliances.

The new program increases the inventory of affordable homes for first-time buyers, and reduces the number of unmarketable properties left unsold and vacant. Plus, renovations help to stimulate local economies, making the new program a win on many levels. 

For details on VHDA’s Acquire-Renovate-Sell program, including household eligibility requirements, please contact VHDA Director of Homeownership Lending Mike Urban at

New Workforce Housing for Fredericksburg

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In the fast-developing area of Fredericksburg, Virginia, affordable housing has a new address. In this booming market, where reasonably priced housing is so hard to come by, Orchard Ridge at Jackson Village offers 169 new apartments, and a second phase of construction will bring the total to 245. Here, teachers, hospital workers, firefighters, police and others can find one-, two- and even three-bedroom apartments that fit their budgets and provide a comfortable lifestyle.

All 169 units must be rented to individuals or families with $70,320 or less in annual income. There are several models to choose from; all feature 9-foot ceilings, open floorplans, upgraded flooring, oversized windows, designer kitchens and baths and a full-size washer and dryer. Community amenities include controlled entry access, lobbies with designer furnishings, bike storage, a dog park area, 24-hour fitness center, clubhouse, pool and a picnic/grilling area. The community is near schools, shopping, dining and healthcare, with easy access to both Washington, D.C. and Richmond via I-95 and commuter rail.

“We’re excited to be part of this community,” said L. Scott Armiger, President of Orchard Development Corporation. “Our group develops affordable housing and when we looked at the site and the Fredericksburg market, it looked like the right fit.” This is the fifth time Orchard Development Corporation and VHDA have teamed up on a project.

December 5, 2019

Revitalization and Workforce Housing Coming to Middlesex County

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Governor Ralph Northam (center) visited the Cook’s Corner revitalization site.

Middlesex County on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula is ground zero for a revitalization plan that is expected to produce multiple benefits for the region.   

In an area called Cook’s Corner, 24 affordable workforce housing rental units will be built by 2020 as a measure to attract and retain skilled workers. The new apartments will provide much-needed housing for Middlesex County employees — teachers, sheriff's deputies and others — as well as residents and employees from adjacent counties.   

While housing is the cornerstone of the plan, other components will boost the region’s economy and infrastructure. They include moving and repurposing a historic school as a micropub (a restaurant and mini-brewery), converting another vacant school building to a special events center, renovating a gymnasium and county offices, building a nature trail with signage commemorating the region’s African-American heritage, and extending water and sewage lines.

Early funding for Cook’s Corner has come from several sources: 
  • A VHDA Community Impact Grant is covering site planning and design work, a market study, the preparation of zoning and bid documents and other upfront development activities.
  • The River Counties Community Foundation awarded the foundation $150,000 over a three-year period.
  • Plan sponsors have also received a $2.25 million Vibrant Communities Initiative grant through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and a $480,000 Industrial Revitalization Fund grant.
The housing units will be developed by the Middlesex Foundation. (The chairman of their all-volunteer board is Bruce DeSimone, a former VHDA official with extensive housing development experience.) Other partners collaborating with the foundation include:
  • Middlesex County and its School Board
  • Middlesex County Economic Development Authority
  • Rappahannock Oyster Company
  • Middlesex Water Authority
  • Hampton Roads Sanitation District
The Cook’s Corner revitalization plan will check three important boxes – it will produce affordable workforce housing, it will create jobs and new tax revenues, and it will expand vital infrastructure through new water and sewer lines. It’s a textbook example of just how transformational such plans can be, and the difference they can make in a community. 
Learn more:
Chris Thompson, VHDA’s director of strategic housing, is your source for learning about the many different ways in which a Community Impact Grant can support community revitalization efforts. He can be reached at 804-343-5692 or

July 24, 2019

VHDA + GO Virginia: Partners in Economic Development

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If Virginia wants job growth and economic prosperity, it needs to offer affordable housing.

That’s one of two key points VHDA is making in its ongoing discussions with one of the state’s leading economic development initiatives – GO Virginia.

The second point follows from the first: VHDA resources and programs are helping localities boost their affordable housing stock. 

The GO Virginia Coalition was formed in 2015 by senior business leaders in the Commonwealth. It provides financial and other incentives for business, government and educational entities to collaborate in ways that foster high-paying job growth in the private sector. The coalition is divided into nine geographically drawn regional councils, each with its own economic and workforce development challenges and opportunities. Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing, has been in discussions with many of them.

“One region we’ve met with wants to accelerate its growth in the biotech sector,” said Thompson. “We’ve talked about how VHDA could potentially help develop properties in which research and development facilities – or wet labs as they’re called – occupy the first floor, with entrepreneurs on the second floor and apartments higher up. Under the right circumstances, VHDA could finance the purchase and renovation of such properties, and even provide grant funding for front-end activities.”

This example reflects the development of a mixed-use / mixed-income property that has both a commercial and a housing component. This type of development just one of VHDA’s areas of expertise that can be a catalyst for job growth.

Another GO Virginia regional council decided to establish a housing subcommittee, following a meeting with VHDA. The region plans to apply for a VHDA Community Impact Grant to assess the redevelopment potential of properties located within its boundaries.

The link between jobs and housing is strong. Companies that expand their operations by adding jobs at a new location, for example, pay close attention to housing supply-and-demand considerations during their site selection process. A locality that lacks affordable housing units may be eliminated simply for that reason.

VHDA will continue to meet with GO Virginia’s regional councils, and explore opportunities for further collaboration. Our shared goal is to help ensure Virginia has the affordable housing it needs for a strong economic outlook.

For more information, please contact Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing, at 804-343-5692 or

VHDA Grant Delivers Funds to Conduct Housing Study: Lynchburg’s First Step to Meeting Current Housing Needs

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A recently completed study funded by a VHDA Community Impact Grant has given the City of Lynchburg valuable statistical insight into its housing situation, especially relating to a lack of affordable units for low-income residents.

The study was commissioned last year by the Lynchburg Regional Housing Collaborative (LRHC), an organization that focuses on poverty-related issues affecting the city.

The study looked at Lynchburg’s housing supply and demand environment from a number of socio-economic measures. It was conducted by Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), which used a sophisticated new tool called Enterprise 360 to collect and analyze U.S. Census-tract data.

ECP reported the following:

Half of Lynchburg’s households make less than 80 percent of the Area’s Median Income ($48,250 a year for a family of four).
More than 10,000 households spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing.
Of that total, nearly 4,500 households are considered severely cost-burdened, meaning they spend at least half of their income on housing.
The city lacks 578 residential units for its lowest-income households.
Seven out of 10 families that moved within the city in 2016 had incomes below $25,000.

The study’s findings have been shared with Lynchburg officials and LRHC members, which include Miriam’s House, Rush Homes, Greater Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity, Lynchburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Lynchburg Community Action Group and the city of Lynchburg. The group plans to use this data to prepare a plan to promote housing growth and stability. City staffers have been asked to analyze the data and its implications and recommend next steps to the city council.

July 8, 2019

Honoring a True Partner and Friend of Affordable Housing

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An early background in social services might not immediately translate into multifamily housing and property management. But, Scott G. Reithel has made it work seamlessly for more than 40 years.

Scott started off as a Child Protective Caseworker in New York, equipped with a degree in sociology and social work. That work eventually led him into housing assistance work, and from there he became involved in property management. Since then, Scott’s work with multifamily and affordable housing has taken him all over the U.S.

For the last 10 years, he served as Vice President of Property Management and Director of Fair Housing / Section 504 for Community Housing Partners (CHP) in Richmond, Virginia. Scott retired from CHP in early 2019 and is now a consultant.

During his long and rich career, Scott achieved the designations of CPM® (Certified Property Manager), NAHP®-e (National Affordable Housing Professional-executive level), and CGPM (Credential for Green Property Management). His knowledge of property management combined with his background in social services have made him a valuable resource to VHDA, providing expert input and advice to help our work with developers of multifamily rental homes and affordable housing management.

“It’s difficult to overstate the quality of good professional management of properties, and that’s what Scott brings to the table,” said Neal Rogers, Director of Compliance and Asset Management at VHDA. “He is very well-respected and people value his opinion.” 

Scott is also a member of VHDA’s Rental Advisory Board. VHDA relies on the expertise of advisory groups to provide guidance on programs and services, as well as insight into industry challenges across the state.

In March of 2019, Scott was a co-recipient of the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) Industry Statesman Award. This award is given to a NAHMA member who is retired or nearing the end of a career. It recognizes outstanding leadership and service to NAHMA along with the affordable housing industry. Scott, who is a former president of NAHMA, also won the exclusive Member Emeritus Award in October 2018 from the organization.

For his efforts in developing housing and programs for persons with mental illness, Scott has been honored by the Eli Lily drug company and the National Mental Health Association and was given the Milwaukee Ovation Award. He has also been recognized for his fair housing work by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Scott is a stellar example of the people and partnerships that help VHDA accomplish our affordable housing mission in Virginia. "Scott's exposure to the affordable housing industry throughout the U.S. brings a wealth of knowledge to VHDA," said Neal. “It's wonderful to have long-term relationships with people like Scott.”

June 25, 2019

Overhaul of Norfolk Complex to Benefit Low-income Households

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An aging public apartment complex on Virginia’s seaboard is being upgraded with help from a multi-layered financing package from VHDA.

The Diggs Town public housing development was built in 1952 and renovated in the 1990s, but is now in need of another renovation. VHDA’s financing will allow the property’s owner, Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, to restore it both functionally and aesthetically.

The renovation of Diggs Town is part of a HUD program known as RAD, which seeks to preserve affordable housing. The project will restore a nearly 70-year-old complex, and provide many quality-of-life improvements for residents:
VHDA construction standards will improve grading to prevent flooding and allow for increased walkability, as well as provide asbestos removal and system upgrades.
New lighting will improve security.
New appliances and energy-efficient windows will help keep utility bills lower for residents.

When work is completed (scheduled for early 2021), 222 modernized apartments will be occupied by tenants making no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. A second phase of redevelopment is in the planning stages.

VHDA is providing $10.3 million in permanent financing for the Diggs Town renovation. To attain a low interest rate, the loan uses funds from VHDA’s REACH Virginia program. VHDA contributes a significant portion of our net revenues to this program each year to support housing for low-income families, the homeless, seniors, people with disabilities, and those who live in high-growth or high-cost areas. Money from REACH Virginia also helps support urban revitalization and preservation of small towns.

In addition to the financing, VHDA is issuing federal Housing Credits (sometimes called Low-Income Housing Tax Credits), which incentivize property owners and private investors to build or rehabilitate affordable rental housing. As a result, a certain number of units are set aside for lower-income households, while other units have higher rents and no maximum household income requirement. The property also accepts Housing Choice Vouchers.

Diggs Town is a prime example of how VHDA’s behind-the-scenes work brings state and federal programs together to support housing agencies, property owners and even private investors as they improve Virginia’s housing environment.

Danville Pilot Project to Feature New Generation of Manufactured Homes

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New and improved manufactured homes are now on the market, and with some help from VHDA, a pilot project is being planned in Danville.

Manufactured homes are built in factories in sections, then transported and assembled at the homesite. This process has several advantages: costs are more predictable, homes are usually less expensive than their site-built counterparts, and construction timelines are reduced – in part because weather delays can be avoided.

A Kentucky-based organization named Next Step will build the homes for the pilot. Next Step was founded by an Appalachian native who saw people in her region struggling to buy and maintain a home. It became a nonprofit organization in 2012, and today its mission is fully aligned with VHDA’s – making sustainable and affordable homeownership a reality for lower-income households.

In recent years, Next Step has transformed the quality of its manufactured homes by improving their durability, energy efficiency and aesthetics. In addition to permanent foundations, today’s Next Step homes have pitched roofs, front porches and attractive designs, and offer low operating, maintenance and utility costs.

VHDA’s strong working relationship with Danville officials helped jumpstart discussions between the city and Next Step about the upcoming pilot, which is expected to include six to eight homes, all ready for occupancy by end of 2019. The homes will be located in the same neighborhood as the VHDA-sponsored Center for Housing Education. The center offers resources and programs to make purchasing and maintaining a home an easier process, especially for first-time buyers.

VHDA sees manufactured homes as an important piece of the affordable housing puzzle. While not for all homebuyers, they represent a viable option for lower- and moderate-income households, all the more so because of their improved aesthetics and quality.

“We’re hoping the Danville pilot will change some of the public’s misperceptions about manufactured homes,” says Chris Thompson, VHDA’s director of strategic housing. “Today these homes are more attractive, more durable and more energy-efficient – and many families will view them as comfortable and affordable places to live.”

For more information, please contact Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing, at 804-343-5692 or

VHDA + Virginia’s Planning District Commissions: Working Together to Jumpstart Housing Development

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Because we share a goal of creating sound, livable and connected communities, VHDA is proud to partner with Virginia’s 21 planning district commissions (PDCs).

Virginia’s PDCs are made up of elected officials, citizens appointed by local governments, and an executive director selected by the commission itself. PDCs assist governments with grant applications, program implementation, and land-use planning and mapping, among other activities. They also work closely with local and state agencies on highway planning, ridesharing, airport planning and specialized transit projects.

VHDA supports PDCs and local governments in their planning efforts; one of the most important ways we help is through our Community Impact Grants (CIGs). These grants are used to revitalize communities and spur economic growth through the development of mixed-use/mixed-income properties. Many PDCs have used grant funds for regional market studies or comprehensive housing plans, which serve as strategic playbooks. Such data-driven reports are especially valuable, because housing development is a long and complex process whose success pivots on many variables. Having complete and accurate upfront data yields a more successful outcome.

We’ve met with a number of PDCs to offer our housing expertise, including:
Central Shenandoah PDC (based in Staunton).
Commonwealth Regional Council (Farmville).
George Washington Regional Commission (Fredericksburg).
Middle Peninsula PDC (Saluda).
New River Valley Regional Commission (Radford).
Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission (Front Royal).
Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission (Culpeper).

During our meeting with the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, we gave a presentation on the importance of affordable housing to a region’s economic growth. Their executive director remarked that the information shared would be very helpful in pushing their discussion of housing development forward.

Our longstanding partnership with PDCs throughout the state will continue, as we work together to put quality, affordable housing within reach for more Virginians.

For more information about VHDA planning resources, including Community Impact Grants, please contact Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing, at 804-343-5692 or

April 23, 2019

VHDA’s Role in Providing a New Lease on Life to Vulnerable Populations in Richmond

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Pastor Mike McClary knows what it means to be down and out and on the verge of despair. But he also knows what it takes to turn his life around, and for more than 30 years he’s been helping others do the same with theirs.   

Pastor Mike was a runaway at 13, a self-described rebellious Army private at 18 and a homeless vagrant fighting a losing battle against substance abuse soon thereafter. But in 1982 he discovered religion in a Norfolk, Virginia, mission, and three years later he was ordained a Baptist minister. He subsequently served as pastor of several congregations in Richmond, and it was there in 1987 that he founded Good Samaritan Ministries, where he now serves as executive director, working with his wife Nita.

Good Samaritan is a lifeline for people fighting poverty, homelessness and addiction. It serves hot meals to the hungry and distributes clothing to the needy, and it operates a thrift store and an auto donation center. It also owns approximately 100 affordable rental units, all of them financed through VHDA.

Good Samaritan’s discipleship program for recovering addicts is perhaps its signature activity. Participants – usually 60 to 70 at any given time – spend the first six months living in a dormitory, coping with drug withdrawal and learning to accept responsibility for their circumstances. During the next six months they’re taught job skills as well as how to accept authority and get along with others. They live in apartments, including those VHDA has financed, during this stage.

It’s after graduation that the reality of finding a place to live kicks in, because very few of these people are creditworthy enough to find a lease on the open market.

That’s where Clopton Manor Apartments come in – the most recent Good Samaritan property financed by VHDA. When the sale closes in March, its 44 units will house discipleship program graduates as well as low-income households that qualify.

Good Samaritan Ministries is a beacon to people whose lives are threatened by darkness. VHDA is proud that our financing opportunities can support this program, and we salute Mike and Nita McClary for being difference-makers in Richmond.

For more information about VHDA’s rental financing, please visit

February 18, 2019

Affordable Apartment Homes for NoVa Seniors

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New Community Arises on Former Schoolyard 

Low-income seniors in McLean now have a new and impressive housing option.

Officials cut the ribbon at The Fallstead 
The Fallstead at Lewinsville Center is a privately managed independent living community for seniors. Its ribbon-cutting ceremony, held in October 2018, was attended by local and state officials, civic and business leaders, representatives of Wesley Housing Development Corp. and Hamel Builders, VHDA Executive Director Susan Dewey and many others.

The Fallstead is being promoted as a place where affordable living meets enjoyable living. Its 72 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units are reserved for residents 62 years of age and older whose household income doesn’t exceed 50 percent of the area’s median income. There are a host of community amenities, including an onsite fitness center, business center, library, media room, landscaped courtyard, garden and more. Ten percent of the units are designed for people with mobility impairments, and two percent for those with vision and hearing impairments.

VHDA provided nine percent Housing Credits for this development. This U.S. Treasury Department-sponsored program, also known as Low-Income Housing Tax Credits or LIHTC, provides federal income tax credits to private investors who build or rehabilitate housing for low-income individuals or families.

The nearly nine-acre Fallstead site has undergone several transformations over the years. In 1961 an elementary school was built there; later it was home to a 22-bed independent-living facility as well as a senior center, a childcare center and an assisted-living facility. In 2015, the Fairfax board of supervisors gave the green light for the independent-living facility to be demolished and redeveloped into the current 82-bed facility through a partnership with Wesley Hamel Lewinsville LLC. A separate onsite building is slated to house the Lewinsville Senior Center, an adult day healthcare facility and a child care center.

The Fallstead’s location on Great Falls Street in McLean sits on the doorstep of a bus stop and is within a mile of the Tyson’s Corner metro station. It is a welcome and much-needed addition to the affordable senior housing inventory in Northern Virginia.

NVAHA Regional Housing Leaders Awards: Two Men, One Commitment to Affordable Housing

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Michael Scheurer
One was a native of Ireland, a champion of the poor and vulnerable, a priest beloved on three continents. The other has spent a distinguished career working and volunteering for organizations that help the homeless and low-income households find affordable places to live. In October, both men were honored by the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance (NVAHA) at their Regional Housing Leaders Awards ceremony.

  • Father Gerry Creedon: Born and raised in an Irish family as one of 14 children, Father Creedon served as pastor and associate pastor of several parishes in Dale City, Mt. Vernon and Arlington over his lifetime. In addition, he held leadership positions in Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, the Campaign for Human Development, the Virginia Interfaith Center and SALT (Social Action Linking Together), among other organizations. Father Creedon was founding Pastor of the Arlington Mission in the Dominican Republic; founder of Gabriel Homes for people with disabilities; and founder of Catholics for Housing. Father Creedon passed away on November 16, 2017, leaving behind a legacy of faithful service to the community.
  • Michael J. Scheurer: Michael Scheurer is Vice President, Housing & Community Development, for Cornerstones Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, childcare and other human services. He is responsible for real estate acquisition, development and advocacy activities related to the preservation and development of affordable housing. Before that, he worked at VHDA, where he managed community lending and relationship initiatives and developed strategies to finance affordable housing for homeownership and rental. Earlier in his career he worked for the Fannie Mae Washington Metropolitan Community Business Center, the National Association of Home Builders and the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development. He has also served as chairman of HAND (Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers) and of HomeAid of Northern Virginia. He sits on the Fairfax County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and is a board member of NVHAH. 

Based in Alexandria, the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance is one of VHDA’s many partner agencies in the commonwealth. Its mission is to promote housing affordability for low- and moderate-income households as a regional priority through education, community outreach and other means.

VHDA is proud to have been a signature sponsor of NVAHA’s Regional Housing Leaders Awards ceremony, and we salute Father Gerry Creedon and Michael Scheurer for their well-deserved recognition.

Affordable, New Apartments for Richmond’s Church Hill Neighborhood

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Breaking ground on Church Hill North. Photo by Taylor Dabney; courtesy of The Community Builders.

A new apartment building for seniors and low-income households in Richmond’s East End will open in late 2019, thanks in part to VHDA’s multipronged financial support.

The facility is called Church Hill North after the neighborhood in which it is located. Plans call for 105 apartments to start, with more to be added during a second phase of development. Forty-five of the units are reserved for seniors, and the remaining 60 will be occupied by households with qualifying incomes, including residents of Creighton Court, a nearby public housing complex scheduled for later redevelopment. 

VHDA is backing the $26 million Church Hill North construction in several ways.   

The first involves providing Housing Credits (sometimes called Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, or LIHTC). This U.S. Treasury Department-sponsored program is designed for tenants making at or below 60 percent of an area’s median income. It provides a dollar-for-dollar federal income tax credit to private investors who invest in the construction or rehabilitation of affordable rental housing for low-income tenants.

The second way is via low-interest-rate permanent financing delivered through REACH Virginia, a VHDA program that serves as a catalyst for housing initiatives for seniors, the disabled, the homeless, low-income households and residents of high growth or high cost regions. A substantial portion of VHDA’s net revenues go toward funding REACH Virginia each year.

The Vibrant Communities Initiative, which is a Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development program, is also providing funds for Church Hill North – and VCI’s funding, in turn, originates in part from VHDA. VCI is involved in comprehensive community-based projects, including those with affordable housing and economic-development components.

Church Hill North will open in late 2019.
Speakers at the late-October groundbreaking for Church Hill North included Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney; VHDA Executive Director Susan Dewey; 7th District City Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille; Willie Fobbs, Associate Director for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development; and Orlando Artze, Interim CEO of Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

RRHA and The Community Builders, a nonprofit developer of affordable and mixed-income housing with offices in Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati and New York, are codevelopers of Church Hill North.

Preparing a Plan for the Piedmont

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With its rolling hills, quaint downtown shops, wineries and bed and breakfasts, attractions of cultural and historic significance, a world-class university and other exemplary features, Virginia’s Piedmont Region is a desirable – if not coveted – place to live.

The region (which includes the city of Charlottesville plus Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties) clearly enjoys many advantages, but it also has a challenge: more affordable housing is needed. That’s why the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has launched a study that will lay the groundwork for addressing the area’s housing needs.
A $100,000 VHDA Community Impact Grant is the primary funding source for this study, with another $50,000 coming from Albemarle County and planning district commission funds. Community Impact Grants are awarded by VHDA as a resource for local governments that are pursuing qualified housing planning and community revitalization efforts.

Some of the district’s housing shortcomings are already well documented. Affordable housing is in short supply. In some areas, the waiting lists for public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers – which serve as rent subsidies – have been closed for years. More than one in five households is cost-burdened, meaning they must spend an unduly high proportion of their income on rent, leaving them vulnerable to financial hardship.

The study will delve into these issues and others and try to identify solutions. It will explore the quantity and type of affordable dwellings needed to meet current and future needs, the forces affecting their supply and the degree to which the private market is meeting the region’s challenges. This information, along with related data, will provide a foundation for the region’s leaders to draft housing policies and allocate funds.

The study is also expected to build momentum for the district’s individual jurisdictions to tackle their housing challenges on a regional basis. In addition, the process will produce a template that can be used by localities across the commonwealth to complete the housing analysis required as part of the comprehensive planning process. 

The study’s findings and recommendations are slated to be presented in February 2019. It’s an important first step in making it more affordable for Virginians to live in, and enjoy, this remarkable region of our state.

February 13, 2019

Honoring an Affordable Housing Champion

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Ron Terwilliger (center) was honored
 by APAH for his many contributions to the affordable housing mission.
It’s one thing to recognize a troubling and pervasive social problem. It’s quite another to be a tireless and articulate advocate who presses for solutions.

Affordable housing in the U.S. has just such a champion. His name: J. Ronald Terwilliger. In October, he was honored by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) at an event attended by 300 people, including members of VHDA’s leadership team.

This event generated $650,000 for APAH, an Arlington-based nonprofit that serves more than 1,600 low-income households living in one of the organization’s 16 affordable properties countywide. 

Ron Terwilliger is an Arlington native and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Now retired, he served as CEO of Trammell Crow Residential for 22 years at a time when it was the largest developer of multifamily housing in the nation. Since then, he has championed the nation’s need for more and better affordable housing. His $5 million gift paved the way for the creation of the Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing at the Urban Land Institute, which works on the design, development, and financing of mixed-income workforce housing in Washington DC, Atlanta and Southeast Florida.

Terwilliger has served as Chairman of the Board for Enterprise Community Partners, Habitat for Humanity International and the I Have Dream Foundation. He’s been active in the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission and has lobbied Congress to produce a more fair and effective national housing policy.

During the APAH ceremony, he spoke about how affordable housing is a critical economic development tool that attracts businesses and builds a stable workforce. He was also frank in his assessment of the inequities within the current housing system: “I like to believe that the three-quarters of the population that are well-housed just don’t know that a quarter of the people living in this country are not. I find it frustrating that of the $200 billion we spend as a nation on housing subsidy, 70 percent of it goes to homeownership and the majority of that goes to wealthy people.”

Ron Terwilliger is someone who not only understands the depth and scope of our nation’s housing problems, but who is doing something about it — through generosity, leadership and persistence. We congratulate him and thank him for his many contributions.

Closing the Door on Closing Costs

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In Virginia, military veterans and rural dwellers represent two distinct homebuying groups. Consider the following two scenarios:

  • Returning stateside after his third tour of duty overseas, Jeff was eager to jumpstart his civilian life. Job one: finding a home his family would love, and his budget could afford. Not the easiest task in the world, as he soon discovered …
  • After growing up in rural Southwest Virginia, George and Susan met in college, married and moved to the city. But after 35 years as urbanites, they decided it was time to return to their roots and country living.   
For years, VHDA has offered mortgage products specifically designed for people like Jeff, George and Susan. VHDA’s Veterans Affairs (VA) and Rural Housing Services (RHS) loan programs allow borrowers to finance up to 100 percent of their home’s sales price or its appraised value, depending on which loan they’re getting. Even with 100 percent financing, however, neither of these products could help buyers pay their closing costs. Now, there’s a program that can.

VHDA’s Closing Cost Assistance Grant program went into effect in November 2018. This income-restricted grant is only available to first-time buyers, and it must be paired with either a VA or an RHS first mortgage from VHDA. It provides funds of up to two percent of a home’s sales price or appraised value, whichever is less. The money can only be used to cover closing costs, including discount points, prepaid items, and the funding fee (for VA loans) or the upfront guarantee fee (RHS loans). Best of all, it never has to be repaid.

The new Closing Cost Assistance Grant program will undoubtedly change Virginia’s real estate landscape. For veterans and rural residents buying a first home, it lowers their out-of-pocket expenses and eliminates the need to fold their closing costs into long-term financing that carries interest charges. In many cases, a Closing Cost Assistance Grant could mean the difference between their offer being accepted or declined.

As for the bigger picture, this program is expected to create a wider and deeper pool of new homebuyers – and to position at least some of them to make offers on properties that would otherwise have been out of reach.


VHDA’s Closing Cost Assistance Grant at a Glance:

  • For first-time homebuyers only (at least three years removed from owning and occupying a primary residence).
  • Must be paired with a Veterans Affairs (VA) or Rural Housing Services (RHS) first mortgage from VHDA. (Home refinances do not qualify.)
  • Funds are limited to the lesser of two percent of the home’s sales price or the appraised value.
  • Grant funds must be applied to closing costs, discount points, prepaid items, and the funding fee (VA loans) or upfront guarantee fee (RHS loans).
  • Grants do not have to be repaid.
Other terms and conditions apply, including income restrictions. Contact any VHDA-approved lender for details on this or other VHDA products for first-time homebuyers, such as down payment grants and free homebuyer education. VHDA maintains a database of approved lenders and their contact information at

New Award to Celebrate a Career of Distinction

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The new award is named in honor of retiring
Housing Choice Voucher Program Director
Sharon Fairburn (center). Celebrating with 

Sharon are Managing Director of Community 
Outreach Mike Hawkins and Executive 
Director Susan Dewey.
She will retire in February after working at VHDA for nearly 40 years. But her legacy will live on, in the form of an annual award that bears her name.

It’s called the Sharon Fairburn Housing Choice Voucher Award for Excellence, and going forward it will be presented to an agency in the VHDA Housing Choice Voucher program that best exemplifies the characteristics she has exhibited during her career – professionalism, innovation, collaboration and client advocacy.

The inaugural Sharon Fairburn award was presented in October to the Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board, which provides a variety of programs and client services to residents of Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock Counties. The award included a $1,000 check for staff professional development.

Housing Choice Vouchers are financial subsidies that help low-income households, including those with elderly or disabled members, who are seeking a safe, affordable place to live. Vouchers are distributed by VHDA in partnership with local housing agencies such as Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board. Renters can select from a wide range of housing options – not just apartments, but also single-family homes and mobile homes – instead of residing in a designated housing project. They pay their landlord a percentage of their monthly income, and the voucher subsidizes the remaining rent.

As VHDA’s Housing Choice Voucher program director, Sharon Fairburn has worked with 31 agencies that provide vouchers to more than 9,700 households throughout the state. Looking back, she counts herself fortunate to have found a career so compatible with her academic training (she holds a bachelor’s degree in management, housing and family development from Virginia Tech). She’s seen the Housing Choice Voucher program grow and evolve over the years. And she’s come to appreciate the intrinsic value that vouchers offer to people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Fairburn believes the inaugural award recipient to be more than deserving. “We wanted to select an innovative and professional agency that exhibits strong knowledge of the voucher program and that applies its guidelines consistently,” she said. “Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board is all that, and they also act as strong advocates for their renters in ways that help them succeed.”

Which is exactly what Sharon Fairburn has done, for just short of 40 years. Having an award created in her honor is a fitting tribute to a long and noteworthy career dedicated to helping Virginians attain quality, affordable housing.

Helping Make Local Government Better for 100+ Years

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VML's Town & City Magazine, Nov 2018
When an organization remains in operation for more than a century, it’s doing something right. A case in point is the Virginia Municipal League, which has been helping improve local government in urban communities since 1905.

As in past years, VHDA was a sponsor and exhibitor at VML’s 2018 conference – and this year we were also part of the program, delivering a presentation on housing’s economic impact and leading a panel discussion on how our partnerships with localities help to increase affordable housing inventories.

The presentation was made by Chris Thompson, VHDA’s Director of Strategic Housing. He described how the housing industry generated 314,499 jobs, $14.2 billion in labor income and $1.66 billion in state and local taxes in 2015. In total, the economic impact reached $47.8 billion, making housing the sixth largest industry in Virginia. 

The panel discussion included Chris Thompson and officials from two Virginia cities: Karen Prochilo, Housing Development Administrator for Virginia Beach, and Helen McIlvaine, Director of the Office of Housing for Alexandria. Both of them discussed how they used VHDA Community Impact Grants to tackle housing challenges in their cities. Community Impact Grants are resources awarded by VHDA to help local governments revitalize neighborhoods, in particular by promoting the development of mixed use / mixed-income properties that spur economic growth. Grant funds are often used to produce studies, plans, assessments or analyses that help in this process.

Another presentation on housing resources was given by VHDA Managing Director of Community Outreach Mike Hawkins, to VML’s 2018 Virginia Mayors Institute – a gathering of approximately 50 mayors, local elected officials, and executive staff from across the Commonwealth. He explained various ways VHDA works with local governments to assist with their housing planning and revitalization efforts. He also focused on the relationship between housing and economic development. According to VML, the 2018 Mayors Institute was one of the most successful in event’s history, and participant feedback on the housing resource session was very positive.

The Virginia Municipal League is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that works with
stakeholders to find new and better ways to deliver essential services, and to ensure that sufficient governmental resources exist to help Virginians lead safe and productive lives. Among other activities, VML represents localities before the General Assembly, trains newly elected local government officials, operates a member inquiry service and provides self-insurance programs for Virginia public entities.

The League also publishes a monthly magazine for its members. In the November 2018 edition of VML’s Town & City Magazine, there is a feature article describing in detail how VHDA has worked with local governments around the state, providing Housing Credits, Community Impact Grants and other resources. The article begins on page 9 of the November edition.

VHDA congratulates VML for another successful annual conference, and another productive year working in partnership with Virginia’s local governments.