Kuttner May Build Affordable Housing

In last week’s C-Ville Weekly, Will Goldsmith wrote about Oliver Kuttner’s planned work on the old Central Fidelity bank. In it, Oliver says that he’s considering doing something audacious:

Kuttner wants several floors of retail by opening up the basement as a courtyard along the side street and creating a second floor of retail fronting the Mall. He plans four apartments above the retail in a first phase of redevelopment. The second phase will be a larger structure closer to Water Street that nears the nine-storey limit, which will contain either a 72-room hotel–or affordable apartments at around $500 a month.

$500 apartments on the Downtown Mall? That’s awesome. Oliver would be a minor hero if he did that.

(Via Dave Norris)

25 Responses to “Kuttner May Build Affordable Housing”


  • I”ll believe it when I see it. $500 on the mall? Also, if he does actually do that, he will need to put some sort of policy in place to ensure he is not providing county dwellers with a weekend crash pad. Not sure how to do that with out being considered discriminatory, but I’d hate to see him actually do it and not have the intended target audience living there.

  • “he will need to put some sort of policy in place to ensure he is not providing county dwellers with a weekend crash pad”.

    or students, or city dwellers living 15 blocks away, or lawyers wanting a “nooner” spot a la “The Apartment”, or a hooker pad,
    or channel 29 flop, or a sub rosa office, – the point is if it is profitable
    and feasible, build more until the need is dissipated rather – kind of a “build until they quit coming” even if they are an awful Albemarlian.

  • I agree with the protologist. People seem to forget how markets work when they talk about housing. If the supply increases faster than demand, rents and purchase prices will drop. I sometimes read people bemoan a new pricey condo building because it will make housing less affordable. That may be true for the immediate area, but if there are more units, those units are soaking up demand that would have gone elsewhere. People don’t move to a new city because of a condo building. They buy the pricey condo instead of something else in the area. If Kuttner wants to charge less than market value for rent, fine. That’s just like a donation to a housing fund, though regulating who benefits will be more complicated. The broader, more lasting contribution to affordable housing will be the increased the supply.

    It could be, however, that he is talking about building small efficiency apartments, the market rate for which is about $500, even downtown. This would be a fine idea and, I suspect, a profitable one.

  • I forgot to add that Dave Norris had a similar affordable housing idea during his campaign, though I don’t know where it stands now. He suggested building small apartments (with common bathrooms?) that could rent for $100-$200 to provide economically sustainable housing for the working homeless. I thought this was a brilliant idea.

  • $500 is inexpensive? I would guess that does not include utilities. And how large are these apartments ? Likely not very. It does not sound like something that would be of much use for working families with children.
    As far as who he rents to, thats up to him. If a county resident who works in the city wants an overnight at busy times, or bad weather apartment, there is nothing wrong with that.
    Affordable housing for teachers, police and firefighters? Maybe the answer is to pay these public servants bettr so they can pay for whats on the market. The city though would rather spend money on goofy projects like a transfer center and paving over parkland by Schenck’s Branch. Mr Kuttner is a private businessman; he is not a philanthropist.

  • Affordable housing for teachers, police and firefighters? Maybe the answer is to pay these public servants bettr so they can pay for whats on the market.

    Teachers Start at – 37,800

    Firefighters Start at – 33,999.69

    Police Start at – 33,904

    How much more should we be paying them? Keep in mind those are the “entry level” no prior experience rates. From my perspective those aren’t to bad for “entry level.”

    (I would however recommend raising the police and firefighters to an equivalence with the Teacher’s rate).

  • I wonder if this housing would even be open to people who make in the 30K range like teachers, cops and firefighters, or if there would be some sort of income restriction on it. Some of the housing around here that appears affordable, such as Mallside and Rio Hill, will only rent to people who make about 28 K or less because they get tax credits for it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kuttner was doing the same.

  • Trvlnmn
    I think the question is…. how much more do developers expect to make? The reason there is no affordable housing is because “the margins just aren’t there.” Honestly, do folks who build houses deserve to earn that (a lot) much more than the folks who educate and protect our children. I say no, and the answer is politicians (such as Rooker and Thomas) who have the political will to demand more affordable and better housing solutions for the teachers, firefighters and policemen who protect the millionare developers and their children. I say that they deserve more pay………

    Also, I think the focus should be on the County and not the City. The County is where the vast majority (over 17,000 houses) of the housing will soon be built. Ideally, more would go in the city, but one only needs to look at the numbers……

  • It’s not just the County; there’s an awful lot being planned in the City as well.

    If people don’t want to support the developers, don’t buy their product; it’s economics. They wouldn’t build what they couldn’t sell (current market variances aside).

  • The reason there is no affordable housing is because “the margins just aren’t there.”

    I don’t disagree. Developers are greedy. Politicians are spineless.

    But the question asked is “How much more should we be paying them?” I would like to hear a concrete dollar figure. Not an abstract answer like- “they deserve much more than we could ever pay them.” I’m tired of the myth of the teacher as the all suffering saint.

    If I made 37,000 per year I am quite confident I would be able to scrape together 20 percent down for some of the housing options in the area (even though it would take me a couple of years and I do think most of it is overpriced).

    And keep in mind while it’s “Teachers, Police, and Firefighters” getting all the attention- there are a lot of other jobs in the area that pay much much less but you don’t hear anyone playing the violin for the people filling any of those jobs. No I believe (as I read on another thread) that you characterized them “people who simply won’t move to another town to find a job.”.

    If a “Teacher, Firefighter, or Police Officer,” can make more money in a different profession then by all means they should go ahead and do so. I’ll even bow to your solution- Move somewhere else if needed. Any shortage of personnel created might prompt pay increases. Perhaps thats whats needed.

    And as Jim points out there is an awful lot being planned in the City as well. And a large portion of it is aimed specifically at the luxury market. So they don’t get a walk either.

  • And for the record- My money is that the 72 room Hotel is the option that is eventually chosen.

  • “And keep in mind while it’s “Teachers, Police, and Firefighters” getting all the attention- there are a lot of other jobs in the area that pay much much less but you don’t hear anyone playing the violin for the people filling any of those jobs.”

    Hear, Hear. Those folks chose those jobs and I think those jobs are not that bad. They all have definite advantages and as TVLNMN says there are other job openings. And , I add, are those professions really doing a fantastic job , that is, a 4.0 performance?
    I think not. Well, maybe the firefolks , but how many big fires do we have. Legislation and building codes over the years have drastically reduced fire calls to the point that kitten rescue is a priority (niothing against kittens) and there are instances where the fire department reponds to a flooded basement with their pumper as a normal duty. Is that what taxes are for? Now rescue folks are high on my list especially when they recognize they should drive with care.

    I have always wondered at the thought process that occurs when a person takes a job and then immediately embarks upon the “violin sonata” to get a raise. Damn – Try another profession – you knew what it was when you hired on.

  • Well, maybe the firefolks , but how many big fires do we have. Legislation and building codes over the years have drastically reduced fire calls to the point that kitten rescue is a priority (niothing against kittens) and there are instances where the fire department reponds to a flooded basement with their pumper as a normal duty. Is that what taxes are for?

    I think you’ll find that they keep pretty busy.

  • WALDO :I think you’ll find that they keep pretty busy.

    I don`t have the stats on calls but no I don`t ” think you’ll find that they keep pretty busy.” At least not with fire calls.

    The Fire prevention efforts are to be praised for the good results but one cannot deny these legislative, department, and code efforts have drastically reduced the number of bona fide fire calls over the years.

    My comments are not meant to disparage any service but I believe in looking at facts. One fact is if you strike the number of non fire calls you will find ,,I think, there is a large decrease. That is , of course, to the public benefit and a record to be proud of ; nevertheless it is a reduction in fire calls.

  • Proctologistview, you wrote “and , I add, are those professions really doing a fantastic job , that is, a 4.0 performance? I think not. Well, maybe the firefolks , but how many big fires do we have.” You think they are not doing a fantastic job because there aren’t many big fires? How is that their fault? They go out on the calls that people make–they’re doing a less than 4.0 performance because not every call is a raging inferno at the Home for Adorable Orphans? You may be perfectly right that there are fewer true fire calls than there might have been in the past, but I just don’t see how you downgrade their performance (i.e., not doing a fantastic job) on that basis.

  • Cecil(2) Says:

    I won`t argue that point Cecil but please recall this started with another post when we were discussingwhther these asre good jobs or not. In my opniion they are good jobs as the other poster also opines. The discussion was never pointed at the quality of work per se but whether or not those jobs are desireable.

    In my opnion they are desirable jobs and different folks are attracted to them for a variey of reasons other than pay (which was a point of the discussion ) – Firefighter jobs I believe have a shift rotation which to some people may be very desireable – Teaching jobs have a three month (I know sometimes refresher schooling is beeded but thatis a factor in any skilled job) which is attractive to to some situations and on and on – That was the main part of the discussion and I don`t intend to become involved with “raging infernos” etc and I don`t think I downgraded any performance – in fact I plainly stated this is not a disparagement of any of the positions under discussion. I know there are a lot of posts on this page but if ytou haven`t read them all please do and you will understand where I am coming from.

  • “If people don’t want to support the developers, don’t buy their product; it’s economics.” – J. Duncan

    Wow, this is a cold hearted perspecteve. And so who does one turn to for an affordable house, given that 99% of all the new housing is built by developers?

  • It’s not cold-hearted, it’s reality. Most developers intend to make profits, that’s that the free market system. Whether they “deserve” to make more money than X is irrelevant. What other option does one have other than “not buying their product”?

    There are solutions out there for affordable housing, such as the programs that Dave Norris is involved with, Piedmont Housing, the various assistance programs that the City and County have, the City’s new plan, work force housing fund …. there is no silver bullet and we have yet to find “the” solution, but working together we can find this solution.

    Castigating and denigrating developers is not, in my opinion, part of the solution. Many of them are active in the community helping to solve the affordable housing crisis.

  • Jim writes, “It’s not cold-hearted, it’s reality.”

    IMO, it’s both–“free”-market capitalism is cold-hearted.

  • The fact remains that developers are responsible for building the vast majority of housing in our community…..why pretend that they’re not responsible for housing costs?

  • Developers are not setting their prices in vacuums – witness the varied price reductions (or “adjustments”) on new construction projects across the CharlAlbemarle area.

    If people didn’t buy the products at X price, developers would lower their prices. The fact is that they have been able to sell their product, for the most part, for what they have been asking. If they offered them for below market value prices, there would have to be some mechanism in place that prevented those buyers from flipping those properties.

    Should the people who buy houses at $300k that are sold for $225k in other markets be blamed as well?

  • You’re absolutely right. Market forces dictate, especially when it comes to proffit. Developers make more money building larger, more expensive houses than they do smaller houses. Driving around the area, it’s fairly obvious that house sizes have gotten a bit out of hand for the average consumer. Not many smaller, sub 200K houses are being built.
    The answer it seems to me is city and county regulations that mandate some of these more affordable units. Incentives are all well and good, but the County has had an affordable housing density bonus on the books for years, and it has yet to be used. Furthermore, in several projects (North Pointe) developers have opted to simply make a donation to the county’s aff. housing fund, rather than to actually build affordable housing.

    So, the affordable housing problem is a little more complicated than house “x” sells for “y” price, or simply “working together”….

  • While there is a trend towards smaller houses, smarter space afoot, regarding house sizes for the “average consumer,” I would argue that the “average consumer” disagrees with you.

  • Trend toward smaller houses…..I’ll believe it when i see it. If the average consumer has champagne taste and a budwieser budget, too bad for them. With over 10,000 houses approved in the county for developers to build, it seems like the onus is on the developer to help out with smaller options.

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