Habitat seeks grant for mixed-income housing

A house in Hidden Farm Estates, a neighborhood with a mixture of one- and two-story homes on Chopping Road near the town of Mineral.

Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity is applying for a federal grant to build a 29-unit mixed-income housing development in Louisa County.

If the application succeeds and land can be acquired, the single-family housing project would be located in one of the county’s growth areas, said Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry District). He said he is working with Habitat officials to find a landowner willing to donate property.

Habitat’s goal is to price affordable housing units in the development at $106,000. Some units would be priced at market rate to create a mixed-income neighborhood. Barnes said the mixed model has been shown to work better in many places in the United States than an entirely lower-income community.

The federal Community Development Block Grant would not cover all of the costs associated with the project, so Barnes is also researching how the county might use fees imposed on building and zoning permits to provide revenue. 

Permits are an appropriate funding source, Barnes said, since rapid growth is contributing to the county’s affordable housing shortfall. Money collected from fees could help cover costs the federal grant won’t, such as charges for water and sewer connections.

“As we continue to grow, we’re going to need people who are moving here to contribute to help pay for that growth,” he said.

Barnes said he would like to see the Monticello Area Community Action Agency involved with the project as well, possibly as the operator of a community center that would serve the neighborhood.

The Virginia Association of Realtors reported that the median home price in Louisa County in December 2020 was $297,000, up 24 percent from a year earlier. Home price increases are being driven by a shortage of inventory for sale and strong demand due to low interest rates.

“Right now they call a home for sale for $200,000 affordable, and you can’t get your hands on one,” said Barnes. “In Louisa County right now affordable housing is apartments, and it’s $1,200 a month for one. I feel for a young couple if their parents don’t own land. It’s pretty tough for them.”

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