Southwood Redevelopment Plans to be Reviewed by Albemarle County

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Southwood Mobile Home Park in Albemarle County Southwood Mobile Home Park in Albemarle County
Southwood Mobile Home Park in Albemarle County Southwood Mobile Home Park in Albemarle County
Dan Rosensweig Dan Rosensweig
Sign for Southwood neighborhood in Albemarle County Sign for Southwood neighborhood in Albemarle County

A decision this week could advance a decade-long plan to transform Albemarle County's largest community of affordable, but sub-par housing.

County supervisors are reviewing an action plan to redevelop Southwood Mobile Home Park. More than 1,500 people live in the 341 mobile homes within the community just off Old Lynchburg Road south of Charlottesville.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville bought Southwood in 2007. The nonprofit has pumped more than $2.5 million into maintenance and repairs for the neighborhood, while working with those who call it home.

“They're very family oriented. They're interested in safety. They love this community,” said Southwood Redevelopment Director Rush Otis. “There's a lot excitement. People are really excited. People are understandably nervous, it's change.”

“Our job is to amplify what's great about the community, not only preserve the affordable housing there, but build on it and create more and also create a community that's welcoming of new people coming in,” said Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville President Dan Rosensweig.

Now, Habitat is asking the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to support and fund an action plan to move the redevelopment forward. The redevelopment would replace all of the mobile homes with 7-to-800 units of mixed-income affordable housing without displacing current residents. The organization calls this a “resident-driven design process.”

“They are really focused on retaining affordable housing, knowing that in the county and the city there's really a deficit of affordable housing for hard-working community members,” Otis said.

Habitat's action plan requests $675,000 from the county this year to rezone the land and plan the first phase of the project.

“There's nothing of its kind in the country at this scale. Helping so many transform from trailer-pad renters to homeowners to really building out a whole community from the bottom up,” said Rosensweig.

Otis said the people who live in Southwood are making progress toward welcoming all the new neighbors that will come with the redevelopment, without losing their community's values.

“I think what you'll see is a lot of physical change, but what our dream is is that a lot of the foundational elements remain the same,” she said.

Folks who live in Southwood started meeting last January to begin mapping out their redeveloped community.

Habitat's goal is to get the county to rezone the land by the end of 2018. If that happens, construction could start by the end of 2020.