Charlottesville Affordable Housing Crisis Needs Action

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Dear Mayor Walker and Members of City Council,

We are glad affordable housing is on your 2/5/18 meeting agenda.  The staff report in your meeting material highlights the massive shortfall in affordable housing in the city, especially for low-income people.  However, there are some important missing pieces in the report and with the City’s efforts to address the housing crisis.  We ask that you take action to address the real issues affecting very low-income residents. 

1.       Drafting a Housing Strategy needs to be your #1 priority, and this policy needs to be responsive to community input, especially from the people most harmed by the affordable housing crisis.  The strategy should be based on the real housing needs of our community.  A Housing Strategy is needed before the Comprehensive Plan moves forward, and the Comprehensive Plan must incorporate our community’s commitment to racial justice and affordable housing for very low-income people. 

2.       The City’s efforts have largely left race out of its strategy.  As we have shared before, between 2000-2012 there was a 12% decrease in Black families in the “Strategic Investment Area.”  We have requested before, and we ask again:  please look at the data relating to changing demographics and racial diversity in each city neighborhood and share that data with the public. 

3.       Zoning changes threaten to further increase displacement and decrease diversity.  As we have asked before, if the city plans to move forward with a Form Based Code, please show us how it will not harm low-wealth people.

4.       Explore new funding options.  Bonds and taxes could be part of the solution. 

5.       The new Landlord Risk Reduction Program is flawed and needs to be changed.  The process creating this program did not include community input and the outcome has significant problems.  As Councilor Bellamy recently stated, we need a proposal that will address security deposits – a major barrier for low-income people.  Also, the new policy only applies if a landlord sues a tenant in court.  This policy is based on negative stereotypes about low-income families and harmful to the community.

6.       The proposed Land Bank should solely focus on addressing the need for affordable housing for very low-income people. Board members should be mostly low-income people and community-based organizations which represent their housing interests.

7.       The Affordable Housing Fund should not be changed from a grant program to a loan program.  This proposed change was clearly opposed by the Housing Advisory Committee.  A loan program will harm low-income people at a time when the city should focus on supporting them, given the hardships many families are facing.

Housing justice will only be possible if we address the real needs of the community and if you, and your staff, listen to community members’ input.  Please take action on these issues and help make Charlottesville a just community with opportunity for all.



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