Stop displacement and expand affordable housing for extremely low-income people
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Dear Members of City Council:
Charlottesville faces a state of emergency due to displacement and lack of affordable housing. The needs are dire, and gentrification continues to rage through our neighborhoods. As city government focuses on projects such as updating the Comprehensive Plan, proposing a Form Based Code, conducting a zoning audit and redeveloping the Strategic Investment Area, we write to urge you to shift focus to preventing displacement and expanding housing for extremely low-income people. We applaud your efforts to establish a Rental Assistance Program, but the crisis is greater than what this program can bear.
Therefore, we urge you to do the following:
1. Immediately act on emergency measures to promote housing stability and affordability. The city should do all it can to promote development of affordable housing for extremely low-income people (e.g., incentives to developers). Progressive zoning reforms, real estate tax deferment for low-income homeowners, rent control, voluntary rent increase guidelines and similar programs also deserve the city’s support, even if those changes require permission from the General Assembly. We are not the only city facing these problems, and we can learn from others’ successes. The City should also promptly conduct a study to examine displacement and at-risk areas before embarking on further redevelopment or in-fill plans, and create and implement a Racial Equity Policy that requires an impact assessment for development projects costing over $500,000.
2. The voices of all Charlottesville residents should drive city policy outcomes. The City should increase outreach to more of our lowest income neighbors and ensure responsive policies reflecting residents’ needs and priorities. The current Comprehensive Plan states the city’s affordable housing goal is 15%. However, in a city growing and changing as rapidly as ours, that is far too low. We urge you to engage in one-to-one and neighborhood meetings to gain input from people with incomes under 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI), so that the community engagement includes all of the voices in the city, especially those who are most vulnerable to continued loss of affordable housing.
Median monthly rent in Charlottesville is now about $1,625; the median home sale price is over $313,500. These values are completely unaffordable for most of the core workforce of our com-munity. In the Strategic Investment Area, home for several subsidized and public housing sites, city data show the effects of gentrification: the African American population dropped over 12% be-tween 2000-2012. Without immediate action, City Council will be implicitly supporting displace-ment, destroying Charlottesville’s racial diversity and heaping additional injustice on the same communities who, due to urban renewal, suffered economic and social devastation in the past.
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