IMPACT calls on Charlottesville, Albemarle County to fund affordable housing, improve busing

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 10:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville religious leaders and hundreds of congregation members are calling on city and county governments to take needed action on top-of-mind policy proposals.

During Tuesday night’s Nehemiah Action event hosted by IMPACT, the topics included affordable housing and busing improvements. It was a chance for constituents to push their city councilors and county supervisors to put their money where their mouths are.

What began with joyous song and prayer turned to the question of city and county leadership. That was all part of the plan for IMPACT, a group of religious organizations committed to affecting change in policies that it says will change lives.

“Seeing our spokespersons repeatedly ask or challenge these officials will probably make many of us uncomfortable,” said Carissa Phillips from Charlottesville Vineyard Church. “There is tension in the air tonight. But every day, there is tension for those of us who battle with these problems daily.”

First, IMPACT pushed for a steady flow of funding for affordable housing. In the city, it wants a $3 million annual commitment for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund (CAHF).

Councilor Michael Payne and Mayor Lloyd Snook said they want that money to go toward housing, just perhaps not all through that channel.

“If... $2 million goes to Park Street proposed affordable housing project, $1 million to the CAHF, rather than $3 million just in the CAHF, to me the bottom line is getting $3 million for new affordable housing,” Payne said.

Snook added: “We’re going to spend that kind of money on new projects. But if you want a commitment, if you want a promise, if you want something you can take to the bank and yell at me when I run for re-election, I don’t want to give that to you because that’s not how government works.”

Meanwhile, County Supervisors Ned Gallaway and Ann Mallek said a $5 million baseline for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund is doable -- once it’s created.

“We have to still figure out the legal creation of it, the governance of it, and then how it will work to expense funds,” Gallaway said. “Whether it’s in our housing fund, which is where it will be housed currently, or in that trust fund is my commitment for that $5 million to stay there -- good year, bad year, that we need to make sure we replenish it and keep a minimum of $5 million in there at our disposal.”

Then, a shift to busing -- an initiative IMPACT said will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thus protecting the environment. Both Payne and Snook said they would commit to a goal of a drop to 15-minute wait times for CAT busses by 2025.

“Our transit director has identified a ton of federal money from legislation passed by Congress and it requires local matching funds,” Payne said. “But I know 15-minute fixed routes requires about a $6 million local match that would unlock tens of millions of dollars from the federal government. That’s not currently in our budget, but I think it has to be because that may be a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

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