YIMBY (Yes in my back yard!)

Virginia Supportive Housing’s New Clay House Expansion

The New Clay House is a 47-unit building located at 1125 W. Clay Street in Richmond, Va.  It is owned and managed by Virginia Supportive Housing (VSH). Opened in 1992, it houses formerly homeless single adults and is part of Virginia Supportive Housing’s portfolio of housing units which provide transitional housing for individuals who need extra supportive services to stabilize their lives and retain permanent housing. New Clay House has aged and become out of date. The units are single room occupancy (SRO) and residents share communal bathrooms and kitchens. Virginia Supportive Housing recently submitted a plan to the city which will renovate and expand New Clay House to a total of 80 units. The new project will include green space, will use energy efficient building standards and the units will be converted from SRO’s to full apartments. It will use a variety of tax credits and other funding sources so the project will not cost the city any money.

When neighbors got wind of the proposed expansion they sent angry letters to the Planning Commission in opposition expressing concerns about safety and possible declines in property values. Today, the Planning Commission heard comments both in favor of and against the proposal. They ultimately  voted in favor of the proposal and the final decision will be made tonight at the City Council meeting.

Helen Hardiman, HOME’s Director of Fair Housing, spoke in favor of the proposal and called attention to the possible Fair Housing implications if the Planning Commission were to deny the proposal. Should a Planning Commission or City Council make a decision which makes housing unavailable for a person or group of people because of their membership in a protected class, that Commission or Council has violated the Fair Housing Act. Many of the comments against the proposed expansion of the New Clay House were based on stereotypes about people with disabilities.

Morgan Barker, HOME’s Fair Housing Specialist, spoke in favor of the proposal but as a private resident of Carver. Below are her comments:

“Good afternoon Mr. Chair and members of the Planning Commission, thank you for giving me the chance to speak to you about Virginia Supportive Housing’s proposed project at the New Clay House in Carver.

My name is Morgan Barker. I have been a resident of the Carver neighborhood since August of 2014. I live on the 1400 block of Leigh Street in a duplex with two roommates, both of whom are young women like me. Next to us are young working men, and on the other side are VCU students. A few doors down on either side are families with young children. On the corner next to the Kroger is a rooming house. The New Clay House is about four or five blocks away. The neighborhood is a mix of renters, owners, families, single people, young people, old people, the list goes on. I have trust in my neighbors and my neighborhood as a whole. I’ve never felt unsafe though I have walked or biked around at all times of the day and night. I specifically chose to live in this neighborhood because it’s diverse, close to everything I need, and more affordable than other neighborhoods in the city.

In a city severely lacking in affordable and accessible housing, any addition of affordable and accessible housing, especially an addition that will be managed by a reputable provider like Virginia Supportive Housing, should be welcomed and praised. Carver is a great neighborhood for a project like this because it is in close proximity to a Kroger, the bus line, and other services. Additionally, Carver is a mixed income community. Much of the affordable and accessible housing in the city is in food deserts, areas with a high concentration of poverty, and far away from necessary services.

There is no reason to believe that the proposed plan for the New Clay House would be a detriment to the neighborhood. The New Clay House has been a part of the neighborhood longer than most current residents and the neighborhood has thrived with it in it’s midst. This addition would be an asset for the neighborhood and the city as a whole. Virginia Supportive Housing provides a necessary service to the city by providing participants with a path towards stabilization and success. This project would add to their capacity and ensure success for even more members of the city.

The best part about Carver is the diversity of residents, take away this project and you ensure that this neighborhood will become ever more homogenous. As a resident, that is not what I want to see. I hope you will approve this proposal. “

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