Habitat for Humanity helps ‘the missing middle’ in Staunton

Habitat for Humanity will build 22 new, affordable single family homes in Staunton.
Habitat for Humanity will build 22 new, affordable single family homes in Staunton.(WHSV)
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 6:40 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - Habitat for Humanity will build 22 new, affordable single-family homes in Staunton.

Habitat for Humanity will present to Staunton City Council about its plans to vacate streets in Staunton to start construction of affordable housing townhomes. When the project and ordinance changes were brought to the planning commission, they voted unanimously for the approval of this project.

Lance Barton, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro, said this project is part of a larger initiative to allow people to live in the communities they work in.

“There are some things that the jurisdictions, including Staunton, Augusta and Waynesboro, can do today to assure that their is still the ability for people working in the communities to live there and not be forced to rent which puts you under the control of someone else’s economics,” Barton said.

Barton said homeownership helps people accrue generational and legacy wealth they can pass down to their children. He said the disparity in affordable housing in Staunton is growing rapidly, faster than any other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth.

“The dirty little secret right now is in it’s population demographic. The city of Staunton has the highest growth in what’s called the missing middle,” Barton said. “Middle class folks that work and make a pretty decent wage still can’t afford to live in the community that they work in.”

Barton said around two thirds (66%) of construction workers cannot afford to live in the homes they build. He said working class individuals are getting “farther and farther away” from becoming first time homeowners. He said everything was different five years ago, and they served significantly less people who could afford rent but couldn’t afford housing.

“We’re really starting to serve people who can afford rent but can’t afford to buy,” Barton said. “That makes up about half the people we serve, the other half is folks that may be struggling to find affordable rent and every mortgage is based on their income.”

Barton said affordable housing is not limited to section 8 housing or other subsidized housing. He said people across the Commonwealth and the United States are seeing a rapid increase in housing market prices, but stagnation in their wages.

“These are specifically made for workforce individuals,” Barton said. “That’s a wide income stream. That’s anything from physician assistants, to restaurant workers, retail workers. It really is a large gap in housing in Staunton.”