PHAR founder, Charlottesville housing advocate Joy Johnson wins national lifetime achievement award

Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 10:14 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A leader in the Charlottesville public housing community is taking home a national award.

Joy Johnson is the 2021 winner of the Cushing Niles Dolbeare Lifetime Service Award from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Johnson is the founder of Charlottesville’s Public Housing Association of Residents and has been an advocate for community members and housing policies and practices.

“Having my peers select me to be the person to get that award, it’s like a million dollars,” she said. “I’ve never had a million dollars, but I’m [going to] act like it’s a million dollars.”

Johnson says this award is for everyone in Charlottesville who has been a part of the affordable housing struggle.

She received the news while she was recovering from her battle with COVID-19, because of which she spent time in the hospital. She let out a celebratory yell when she found out she won.

“Everybody thought something was wrong,” she said of that moment.

Now recovered, she says she’s proud of how her work has motivated others.

“I started encouraging other people to go to conferences with me, such as city officials and CRHA board members,” she said. “It was more voices saying the same thing, and to see where we are with the rehab of Crescent Halls... and to have 12 women who actually helped to design their neighborhood, it was just exciting.”

Johnson says she’s sacrificed a lot to attend conferences and learn about housing, but it’s important work.

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