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Finalized Assessment Shows Charlottesville Faces Severe Housing Crisis

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The assessment shows the city needs to add 3,300 more units The assessment shows the city needs to add 3,300 more units
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

The numbers are in - Charlottesville's long-awaited housing needs assessment shows that hundreds of families are spending more than half of their income on housing, while others are struggling to find affordable rental units.

The 114-page study, which was compiled by Partners for Economic Solutions, took more than six months to complete.

While the city has long been aware of the need for affordable housing, it now has hard data detailing just how severe the housing crisis really is.

"I knew it was high, I didn't realize it was 3,300 units high," says Stacy Pethia, the housing program coordinator.

The assessment shows that Charlottesville needs 3,300 affordable rental units.

"If we look at other ways to get affordable housing, such as expanding the rental assistance program, I think we have the opportunity to get upwards of 200 units a year,” says Pethia. “But 3,300 units are tough in a city of our size."

Right now, 1,600 names are on waiting lists for housing programs.

As for those who do have housing, the assessment shows that those who make $45,000 or less per year - which is half of the city's median income - spend more than half of their income on that roof over their heads.

"I knew there was an issue particularly for lower-income families within the city,” says Pethia. “I didn't know how big that issue was, and I didn't know the extent towards which it was the lowest-income populations that were struggling the most.”

The average cost of a rental unit in the city is just shy of $1,400 per month.

"If you're making minimum wage in the community, you have to work 147 hours just to afford average rent in the city,” says Anthony Haro, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH). “So that really highlights, I think, how it's not possible to find a place on your own."

Haro says that while he supports eliminating the cost burden for those struggling to pay their monthly rent, the city’s homeless should be the top priority.

"There are a lot of people who need better housing and more affordable housing, but they're in housing - there's a lot of households who don't have any housing and are forced to live in shelters or in a car,” says Haro.

Charlottesville says it will work with the TJACH while also researching tools to create affordable housing city-wide.

"Whether that is by census tract so every census tract in the city would take on a percentage of affordable units - so that's where we're going next but this gives us the numbers - the background data - we need to really move forward with that,” says Pethia.

Neighborhood Development Services will present City Council with the report at its meeting on Monday, June 18.

The Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee will be using the results of the assessment to come up with a 12-month housing strategy that will begin in the next few weeks.

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