Tight rental market in central Virginia causing people to lose out on federal program

The federally-funded Central Virginia Voucher Program gives people a chance to afford a home.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 3:06 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The federally-funded Central Virginia Voucher Program gives people a chance to afford a home. However, with a tight rental market in the Charlottesville area, even when they have that ticket in-hand, that chance can disappear.

“It is a golden ticket for many,” Housing Program Manager Philip Holbrook said.

Holbrook is with the Albemarle County Office of Housing. He says this program is incredibly popular in central Virginia.

“It helps people be able to seek a sense of stability while also being able to maintain independence and live where they want to live,” he said.

The program is largely based on income.

“It is a waiting list-based program, so it’s not something that’s immediate. It is not something that’s emergency-based,” he said.

The county recently opened its waiting list, and received around 1,100 applications.

“We only had 200 spots available for our Housing Choice Voucher waiting list,” Holbrook said.

It can still be an uphill battle even after you get a voucher. In Albemarle County, about six-out-of-ten families are currently able to meet the requirement of finding a lease in 90 days.

“We’ve seen our success rate dip a bit for various reasons. The challenging rental market is probably the highest on that list,” Holbrook said.

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority says it is seeing similar numbers.

“It’s become a larger issue in Charlottesville,” CRHA Executive Director John Sales said. “Three-out-of-ten vouchers come back as unleased because of some of those barriers that landlords have in place sometimes.”

Sales says those barriers include minimum credit scores, as well as background checks.

“A lot of property managers are also requesting that tenants make three times the income, even though that is no longer the requirement. They should only be looking at the portion of tenants income and ensuring that they make three times that portion,” Sales said.

CHRA says participants pay 30% of their income towards rent, and the program covers the rest.

“Very, very challenging to find a place that is affordable here to live in our community,” Holbrook said.

Albemarle County and Charlottesville say they’re both trying to work with landlords to increase engagement and remove barriers.

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