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Affordable Housing Plan

Plan Introduction

Like many cities around the country, Charlottesville is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Though the City has made repeated investments in developing and preserving affordable housing, Charlottesville still faces a significant affordable housing gap. At the same time, historical patterns of segregation persist throughout the City, and continue to contribute to racial disparities in income and opportunity.

The Charlottesville Affordable Housing Plan builds on past work done by the City and its partners, including a 2018 Housing Needs Assessment, to identify a framework to guide affordable housing policy and investments to increase the impacts of the City’s policies and programs, remove barriers to access, and advance racial equity in housing in Charlottesville.

On this page, we will walk through the main components of the draft Affordable Housing Plan, including the vision, guiding principles, and recommendations. If you would like to view more details, please view or download the full draft Affordable Housing Plan.

The Charlottesville Affordable Housing Plan is a year-long effort conducted in four phases:

  1. Review of existing conditions, discussion of community goals and priorities
  2. Development of strategies and tools
  3. Completion and review of draft plan (we are here!)
  4. Plan finalization and incorporated into the Housing Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, following review and endorsement by City Council in early 2021.

Many people provided input that informed the guiding principles, preliminary goals, and recommendations of the Affordable Housing Plan.

  • In May and June, 2020, community members provided their input in small-group discussions, webinars, and a survey.
  • A Steering Committee of local stakeholders representing City and regional organizations and community members is providing input throughout the Cville Plans Together effort, and held several discussions focused on discussing housing issues, tools, and draft recommendations.
  • Many other organizations and individuals provided feedback through discussions and interviews.

While the Affordable Housing Plan does not cover the full breadth of topics covered in the Housing Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, it will have a large influence on the plan, and the recommendations will be incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan in several ways:

  • The vision for affordable housing was used in revising the vision statement for the Housing Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Recommendations will be incorporated into the Housing Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan as goals and strategies in the next phase of updating the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Action steps for recommendations from the Affordable Housing Plan will be utilized in the Implementation Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, and will be considered in the development of the updated zoning process.
Review draft Comprehensive Plan updates here
  • Finally, the Affordable Housing Plan will also be listed as an important reference document for the Comprehensive Plan.
Cover of Draft Affordable Housing Plan
Full Draft Affordable Housing Plan here
Executive Summary here
We want your input on the draft Affordable Housing Plan! At the bottom of the page, you can find more information on how to share your feedback.

Draft Affordable Housing Plan

Affordable Housing Plan Vision

The City of Charlottesville will work to achieve a local housing market that is healthy, high quality, affordable, and above all, equitable.

Affordable Housing Plan Guiding Principles

The recommendations within the Affordable Housing Plan are built with three guiding principles in mind: racial equity, regional collaboration, and a focus on a comprehensive approach.

Aligning the City’s affordable housing policies, programs, and investments with these guiding principles will help the city to more effectively address existing and future affordable housing needs.

Principle Details
Racial Equity Housing policies and programs in Charlottesville must be intentionally designed to overcome the City’s history of racial segregation and its ongoing inequities.
Regional
Collaboration
Charlottesville must collaborate with Albemarle County and other regional jurisdictions, as well as UVA and other prominent regional institutions, to address housing affordability challenges.
Comprehensive
Approach
Charlottesville needs to implement a combination of subsidy, land use, and tenants’ rights policies to meaningfully impact housing affordability and provide a ladder of housing opportunity.

Affordable Housing Plan Recommendations

The Affordable Housing Plan Recommendations are provided within five topics. Overall recommendations are shown below, along with a brief explanation of each topic.

Topic Description of Topic Overall Recommendation
Funding Funding guidelines can ensure that consistent funding is provided, with clear and transparent requirements for how that money should be spent. Make a strong and recurring financial commitment to address housing needs in Charlottesville.
Governance Governance structures can shape the equitability of decision-making, which ultimately determines housing program implementation and community outcomes. Build governance structures that institutionalize an equitable and efficient implementation of the Affordable Housing Plan.
Land Use Land use policies shape where housing is located, what housing looks like, and how much housing is built. Revise regulations and development approval processes to increase the supply of housing and slow the increase in housing cost, while protecting lower income and other marginalized communities.
Tenants’ Rights Tenants’ rights tools help low-income renters hold power over their lives and counter predatory and unjust practices. Change local policy and advocate at the state level to expand Charlottesville’s ability to support tenants’ rights.
Subsidy Public subsidy is necessary to make the development of units affordable to low-income households feasible. Focus and align subsidy programs with community-defined priorities and make changes to increase impacts.

To view detailed recommendations for each topic, as well as example issues/concerns addressed by the recommendations, expand the titles below by clicking on “+”.

Topic Example Issue Within Topic Recommendation
Scale

&

Consistency

Funding for housing in Charlottesville has averaged roughly $8M in the past three years. This amount of funding is significant for a city of Charlottesville’s size relative to similarly sized peers. However, spending on housing programs has varied significantly in recent years. Year-to-year inconsistency in funding presents multiple challenges, including less ability for non-profits and others to plan ahead for their  expenditures. Dedicate $10M per year to fund affordable housing, to achieve a potential impact of serving over 4,000 households or housing units over 10 years.

Make a commitment to sustain the recommended level of funding for ten years, identifying sustainable and reliable source(s) of dedicated funding.

Targeting Charlottesville does not currently allocate its affordable housing spending according to any specific goals or strategic targets. Target funding towards extremely low-income households to ensure that public funding is targeted to incomes with the greatest need. Allocate 40% of funding to serve households with incomes up to 30% of Area Median Income (AMI), 40% of funding for households earning 30 to 60% AMI, and 20% of funding for households earning 60 to 80% AMI.

Also attach funding to community representation for funding recipients.

Transparency It is difficult to effectively target local funding to specific goals without clearly outlining how funding is being allocated, awarded, and spent. Clearly identify overall housing expenditures within budget, and publish metrics on program funding, capacity, and impacts to create accountability and measure progress towards housing goals.
Topic Example Issue Within Topic  Recommendation
Housing Advisory Committee (HAC) There is a need for clarity and focus on the role that the HAC plays in advising the City, for building diversity of representation, and for limiting potential conflicts of interest. Reform the structure and function of the HAC to build trust and improve its impacts.
Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund (CAHF) Committee The CAHF is the primary way that Charlottesville’s housing spending is allocated, but the City currently struggles to identify and act on clear priorities for the CAHF. Appoint a committee with community representation to make recommendations about the priorities and distribution of the CAHF.
City Staff Capacity The size of Charlottesville’s housing staff is appropriate for a small city, but the scale and complexity of housing programs in Charlottesville is equal to that of a much larger city. In addition, unclear or conflicting City priorities can limit impacts and reduce trust in City staff. Realign priorities, increase capacity, and empower staff to be collaborative with advocates and responsive to community needs.
Standardized Funding Process
Charlottesville provides funding in the form of grants and loans to support a range of affordable housing programs. The relative importance of scoring criteria, and thresholds for performance, are not always clear, and funding for some programs is not awarded on a competitive basis, which can lead to a less efficient use of funds.
Establish clear, transparent, and competitive processes to award grants and loans for affordable housing.
Topic Example Issue Within Topic Recommendation
Multifamily By-Right

More information
The city needs more housing for renters of all incomes. However, 70% of the land that is residentially-zoned in Charlottesville is zoned for single-family residential uses only. Within the zones that allow multifamily development, multifamily developments are difficult to build. Height restrictions require developers to obtain special use permits to make a multifamily development feasible, increasing barriers to development. Change zoning and development processes to increase the production of multifamily housing and expand feasible by-right development, and advocate for similar changes throughout the region, to begin to reverse entrenched patterns of racial segregation.
“Soft Density” By-Right

More information

While “soft density” exists in many places throughout the city, the majority of Charlottesville is currently zoned for single family development only. Single family zoning has historically been a tool to create and enforce segregation, and the legacy of these policies persists in Charlottesville. Change the City’s zoning to allow soft density in single-family neighborhoods while limiting displacement of low-income communities. Advocate for similar zoning changes throughout the region.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

More information
ADUs currently have limited impact on affordable housing, due to the cost and complexity of building them, limitations on eligibility, and the use of ADUs as Short-Term Rentals. Increase the flexibility to permit ADU development and provide public funding to support affordability.
Inclusionary Zoning

More information

There are community concerns about market rate or “luxury” units not addressing affordability needs. New enabling legislation at the state level has given Charlottesville the ability to adopt an inclusionary zoning policy. Create a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy to increase the production of affordable housing units as part of all new development.
Topic Example Issue Within Topic Recommendation
Developments Receiving City Assistance Weak tenants’ rights provisions in Virginia are a direct legacy of policies that disenfranchised Black residents and prioritized the rights of landowners. Improving tenants’ rights where possible is therefore necessary to support racial equity, increase housing security, and increase the impacts of public funds. Require housing developments that receive City funding to provide enhanced tenants’ rights.
Right to Counsel Eviction can be a long-term detriment to families and can cause increased housing insecurity by making it difficult to find housing. Tenants are often not aware of all of the many laws that govern eviction cases. Dedicate funding for the provision of legal services for tenants facing eviction and establish a citywide right to counsel in eviction cases.
Just Cause Eviction Currently, state law prevents Charlottesville from requiring “just cause” for evictions, meaning that landlords can evict tenants for reasons outside of a set of allowable grounds, such as nonpayment of rent or intentional damage to a unit. Advocate for enabling legislation to support just cause evictions and to make other changes to the state’s eviction process.
Rent Control
Between 2010 and 2018, the compound annual growth rate for real median rents in Charlottesville was 2.8%, but in some parts of the city it was as high as 4.1%. State law currently prevents the implementation of rent controls. 
Advocate for enabling legislation to enact rent control in Charlottesville.
Recommendations to reduce development costs for affordable rental housing units.
Topic Example Issue Within Topic Recommendation
Gap Funding Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) LIHTC remains the primary means of creating new affordable housing units and replacing affordable units that risk obsolescence. Charlottesville has supported LIHTC production in recent years, with a total of 480 units in the past three years, with an average local subsidy of $55,000 per unit. This is on the higher end of local subsidy required per unit. Support the development of new affordable rental housing by providing gap financing (low interest loans and grants) to help fund development costs.
Public Housing Redevelopment Public housing is an important part of the Charlottesville community, but many buildings are in need of repair or redevelopment, which can be costly. Set parameters for level and timing of funding that can be made available to Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) to modernize all public housing.
Preservation Fund In Charlottesville, there are an estimated 2,260 units of low-rent units (renting for below $1250), and the city is at risk of losing more than 640 affordable units in the following decade as they reach the end of their compliance periods. Dedicate funding to support the preservation of existing affordable housing in Charlottesville.
Land Bank

More Information

In Charlottesville, opportunities for new development are limited and the cost of land is high. Establish a land bank and provide land equity to develop affordable housing.
Recommendations to increase and preserve access to affordable homeownership.
Topic Example Issue Within Topic Recommendation
Down Payment Assistance &
Shared Ownership Equity
More information
There are barriers to ownership for many low-income and minority homeowners, including costs of purchasing, tax payments, etc. However, many view home ownership as a desirable wealth building opportunity. Revise Charlottesville’s existing down payment assistance program to serve a larger number of households and support shared equity ownership.
Single Family Infill Development There are few affordable homes available to purchase. Partner with developers to build and renovate affordable single-family and soft density housing in existing neighborhoods.
Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Assistance The costs of needed housing rehabilitations can often result in people, including long-time residents, needing to sell a property or live in unsafe conditions. Support existing low-and moderate-income homeownership by providing assistance to make necessary home repairs and maintain affordability.
Property Tax Relief Property taxes can make maintaining home ownership difficult, particularly for low-income, aging, and/or disabled homeowners who may have a limited income. Continue the provision of property tax relief to low-and moderate-income homeowners.
Recommendations to provide rental assistance to tenants
Topic Example Issue Within Topic Recommendation
Tenant-Based Vouchers Vouchers are one of the primary ways to make rent affordable for extremely low income households. Continue the provision and use of tenant subsidies for rental housing in all parts of the city.
Emergency Rental Assistance COVID-19 has increased the risk of eviction for low- and moderate-income households nationwide. Low-income households face emergency situations and housing instability on a regular basis, even outside of a pandemic. Establish a permanent eviction prevention fund to provide emergency rental assistance to lower income households in crisis.

How to submit your comments (Deadline: December 2, 2020)

  • Send comments to engage@cvilleplanstogether.com or use the website comment form

  • Complete the survey

  • Mail your comments to Cville Plans Together, Attn: Alex Ikefuna, City of Charlottesville NDS, PO Box 911, Charlottesville, VA 22902

  • Call the phone line and leave comments as a voicemail

    • Toll free: (833) 752-6428

For information about webinars, virtual drop-in Q&A sessions, and upcoming meetings with Planning Commission and Council, please visit the Virtual Meeting home page.