Governor Northam announces major investments in affordable housing for Virginians

Updated: Dec. 13, 2019 at 10:20 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A. (WVIR) - Millions of state dollars could soon be helping some affordable housing projects in Charlottesville. On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam announced his proposed budget including $92 million in proposed housing improvements.

Northam says this funding would address housing affordability and eviction rates. However, local housing advocates say this money could play a big role in several big-ticket projects here in Charlottesville. With affordable housing on the minds of many, state funding could help push housing redevelopment efforts forward in Charlottesville.

"We want to make sure that all Virginians have access to high-quality affordable housing and we want to build vibrant sustainable communities that provide economic opportunities to all of our citizens,” Northam said. “The new funds will provide funding for housing construction projects that create or preserve affordable housing units. This will reduce the cost of housing and increase homeownership.”

Piedmont Housing Alliance Executive Director Sunshine Mathon says the state funding is a long time coming as the need for affordable units grows across central Virginia. “In the city of Charlottesville and the surrounding region we know in the city itself we have a gap of 3,300 housing interventions to address the affordability need, and a lot of those are for folks making $30,000 or less a year.”

Mathon says the $22 million specifically advocating for access to affordable units could go a long way to help benefit several long term redevelopment projects in Charlottesville. “There are a number of projects which will be applying to a lot of that funding including the redevelopment of friendship court, the redevelopment of public housing, including the crossings two.”

Northam plans on presenting the full details of his budget plans to the state’s Joint Money Committees on December 17.

Office of Governor Ralph S. Northam Press Release:

RICHMOND—Today, Governor Ralph Northam announced his proposed budget will include $92 million in new funding to address housing affordability, eviction rates, and supportive housing throughout the Commonwealth.

“Access to safe, stable and affordable housing is critical to building strong communities, growing our economy, and improving educational and health outcomes,” said Governor Northam. “We will continue to work with our partners to address housing instability and homelessness, provide permanent supportive housing for our most vulnerable citizens, and expand the supply of quality, affordable living options to meet the needs of a growing and diverse Virginia workforce.”

The Governor’s proposed budget invests $63 million in the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (VHTF), bringing the total amount to $84 million over three years. The VHTF provides financing for housing construction projects that create or preserve affordable housing units, reduce the cost of affordable housing, and increase homeownership. The funding also supports homeless reduction grants to provide rapid re-housing and longer-term housing solutions for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

“Governor Northam’s recognition of the critical role that housing plays in our neighborhoods and the impact it has on our individual lives, will reap untold benefits far into the future for low income households across the Commonwealth,” said Brian Koziol, Executive Director of the Virginia Housing Alliance.

In addition, the budget will invest $6.6 million to establish an Eviction Prevention and Diversion Pilot Program. This program will allow local and regional partners to apply for help implementing eviction prevention and diversion programs that cover the costs associated with a pending or potential eviction.

“This funding for eviction prevention and diversion is critical to lowering eviction rates across Virginia,” said Christie Marra, Director of Housing Advocacy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center. “Close to 90 percent of families who are evicted are evicted due to nonpayment of rent. If we are serious about lowering eviction rates, increased financial assistance for families facing eviction is essential.”

Governor Northam also announced that his budget invests $22.4 million over the biennium to ensure populations with special needs have access to safe, affordable housing. Specifically, his budget contains $8.9 million for 350 new rental assistance slots for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It includes one housing coordinator position responsible for the management of the state’s rental assistance program for individuals with disabilities. The proposal allots more than $8 million in permanent supportive housing funds for individuals being discharged from state behavioral health facilities, and invests $5 million to increase funding for statewide discharge assistance plans.

“We applaud the Governor’s forward-thinking and proposed investments to help more Virginia families have access to quality, affordable places to call home,” said Greta Harris, President and CEO of the Better Housing Coalition. “Strengthening housing stability across our socioeconomic spectrum makes our Commonwealth more competitive in a global marketplace and, more importantly, helps our citizens thrive and reach their full potential.”

In November 2018, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twenty Five, which required Virginia to develop policies to increase the supply of permanent supportive housing, address the shortage of quality affordable housing, and reduce the rate of evictions.

“The Commonwealth has made great strides to improve living environments for Virginians, but both our urban and rural communities still face a shortage of affordable housing,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “In order to continue growing our economy, we must ensure the availability of quality, affordable housing so that every community can take part in Virginia’s economic success.”

“The quality, availability, and affordability of housing has a significant impact on health and well-being,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD. “When our Commonwealth makes investments in affordable, stable, and supportive housing, we are also investing in better health outcomes for Virginians.”

Watch the video of today’s announcement here. Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on December 17 to share the full details of his budget plan.

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