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 New Clay House has aged and become out of date.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. “

Open letter on housing to VA’s gubernatorial candidates

The Virginia Housing Coalition has released this open letter to the candidates running for Governor of Virginia. The election will take place on Tuesday November 5th.

Housing is a cornerstone for our families and our communities in Virginia. For 30 years, the Virginia Housing Coalition has advocated that every family and every individual in the Commonwealth should have an affordable and decent place to call home.  As we emerge from the worst housing recession in our nation’s history, there are many reasons to focus on the housing status of our citizens here in Virginia.

  • More than a million Virginia households are housing cost burdened – meaning, they pay more for housing than they can afford.
  • Over 100,000 families lost their homes to foreclosure and this epidemic is still affecting our people and our neighborhoods.  Many areas of the state still lag behind our stronger markets.
  • The homeownership rate in the state and the nation are continuing to decline. We need to make sure that rental housing is available to meet this growing demand,  but we also need to rebuild the opportunity for young families to buy a home and begin to build equity.  Homeownership has long been the principle way that lower and middle class households increase wealth.
  • The cost of rental housing has outpaced the growth of renter incomes over the past decade.  In 2013, it would take a wage of $20.72 per hour to afford Virginia’s  2BR Fair Market Rent ($1,078), but the average renter wage in Virginia is only $15.79.
  • Finally, while we have begun to make progress in reducing homelessness, this progress is threatened by cuts to federal rental assistance funding.

Good housing policy does more than just provide adequate shelter to Virginians.  Housing is an important element of our state’s economy.  Housing construction generates jobs and economic spinoff benefits the surrounding community. For example, the construction of 100 single family homes in Fairfax County supports 222 short term jobs and 20 long term jobs, bringing the total economic impact to over $16.5 million. Usually, housing leads us out of a recession.  That has not been the case with the Great Recession. Our homebuilding industry has been in a depression for the past five years and that needs to change in order for economic growth to accelerate in our state.

Housing is integrally connected to many of the important issues that you will face as Governor.  Housing density, location and development patterns fuel our transportation needs and expenditures.  Good, stable housing correlates with improved educational achievement in young children, as well as providing mental and physical health benefits, especially to our older citizens.

As Governor, we urge you to place a priority on the development of a detailed housing policy and plan in the first year of your term. We also ask you to commit to continue funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund – an effort that has already begun to yield benefits to families across the state. The first round of Housing Trust Fund projects will be getting underway by the end of the year and will serve a broad range of housing needs in the state, including veterans, persons with disabilities and individuals experiencing homelessness.

On behalf of our membership across the state, we look forward to working with you to expand and improve housing opportunities for all Virginians in the next four years.

Sincerely,

Bob Newman, President

Listening Sessions on housing this summer

The Virginia Housing Coalition and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness in partnership with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development are holding six regional information and input sessions this summer. The meetings are open to anyone with an interest in affordable housing and homelessness who wants to have a say in the future housing policies in the state.

The sessions will include:

  • A summary of the outcomes of housing and community development legislation during the 2012 General Assembly session.
  • An update on the status of the State Housing Policy Framework and the State Homelessness Plan.
  • A discussion and prioritization of housing issues for the 2013 General Assembly session (with special focus on issues of regional significance).
  • Input into the design of the newly created Virginia Housing Trust Fund. The Department of Housing and Community Development must submit a program plan to the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees by November of this year.

The schedule for these forums is:

Charlottesville

Date:               July 31, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Partner:           Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission
Location:         Water Street Center – 407 E. Water Street Charlottesville, VA 22902
Register for this session here

Roanoke

Date:               August 2, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Partner:           Roanoke Regional Housing Network
Location:         Boardroom Office – 502 Campbell Ave, SW Roanoke, VA 24016
Register for this session here

Northern Virginia

Date:               August 8, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Partner:           Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance
Location:        Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale Campus
Ernst Cultural Center  – 8333 Little River Turnpike Annandale, Virginia 22003
Register for this session here

Richmond

Date:               August 15, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Partner:           Richmond Community Development Alliance
Location:         Virginia Housing Development Authority – Henrico room 1
4224 Cox Road Glen Allen, VA 23060
Register for this session here  

Fredericksburg

Date:               August 21, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Partner:           Central Virginia Housing Coalition
Location:        Central Virginia Housing Coalition
208 Hudgins Road Fredericksburg, VA 22408
Register for this session here

 

Please register for these important input and discussion forums by following the link for the forum you wish to attend. All events are free and open to the public but registration is required and appreciated.  If you have any questions about this event or registration please email VAHousingCoalition@gmail.com

Glowing Homeless

The homeless are invisible and we try to make sure to avoid homeless individuals when we encounter them on the streets. New art work attempts to pull us out of our willful ignorance and force us to see and think about the homeless:

Thus Allié brought an object into being that represents the thousands of homeless that face social exclusion and the troubles of street life every day and night

Taking control of your life starts with a home

Control is really key for comfort…it’s good to keep in mind that the best territories have clearly defined borders and allow for some privacy. They’re low on stress and high on security…[t]erritories have rituals.

These statements from an article about staying overnight at a hotel or the homes of family or friends during holiday travel essentially speak to the second most fundamental and basic of human needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – the need for security.

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10 Must Know Facts About Housing in Virginia

Our friends at Housing Virginia have compiled a brilliant list of ten facts you should know about Housing in Virginia in 2011. I am listing them below:

10. The rate of homeownership in Virginia continues to decline. The home ownership rate in Virginia peaked in 2006 at just under 70%. Since then, it has been in decline, dropping more than 3% by 2010. At the start of 2011, the rate stands at 67.7%, the lowest rate in a decade. As home ownership declines, demand for rental housing grows.

9. Declining home values the past four years have resulted in record numbers of Virginia homeowners who are “underwater.” Their home is now worth less than the amount that they owe on their mortgage. In 2011 over 291,000 homes in Virginia were underwater – over 23% of all mortgages. Another 76,000 were “near” negative (within 5% of value) – bringing the total to almost 30% of Virginia’s mortgages.

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