Council Declines Fixed Affordable Housing Spending

A hundred and twenty five people showed up to lobby City Council to deal with the shortage of affordable housing, Seth Rosen writes in today’s Progress. They were asking the city to set aside $1.7M annually for affordable housing. As WCAV reports, council didn’t go for it, instead simply passing a resolution that they intend to increase spending on affordable housing next year. Three fifths of council wasn’t willing to support locking in an annual rate of funding. The hope is that, instead, the General Assembly will pass legislation that would allow the city to allow developers to build more densely than zoning would otherwise permit in exchange for making contributions to an affordable housing fund.

49 Responses to “Council Declines Fixed Affordable Housing Spending”


  • I agree that housing is very expensive in Charlottesville, but I guess I’m just not clear on what affordable housing means. I know about the Piedmont Housing Authority and how they help folks with down payments, and first time home buyers. I just don’t have the vision as to how tax payer money will help with affordable homes. Will the city start buying houses and then reselling them to people? Will they spend money on whatever little bit of land is available for development in town and then give that to the P.H.A.? Will the city say to landlords who own two, three or more properties that they can only own like two houses and have to sell the others to increase inventory? Will the person with bad credit who hasn’t saved any money for a down payment and can’t really afford a mortgage be given a house anyway? What does this do for the city in general? Does it just convey a better image as a more humane place to live, or does it have any tangible returns? Please be gentle blog posters. I’m just asking a few simple questions.

  • I just don’t understand how so may people live in these huge houses on Parkstreet and they are always at home and never seem to go to work. My neighbors live in this gigantic $500K house and one of them works part-time at a coffee shop and the other stays at home all day. I mean the poverty rate in Charlottesville is around 30%. Where are all of these people woking who live in these monster houses? I’m guessng their are a lot of trust funds around this town. The median household inclome in Charlottesville is about 32K. I mean at that level you can’t even afford the downpayment on a house! Where are they coming from? Strange! JC

  • JC Clark,

    I think you hit on it with the whole trust fund thing. There’s also alot of retired boomers, but mainly those ar e the ones buying the McMansions.

    I can say that I know a woman at UVa who is a lab tech, does highly technical scientific experiments and has to work nights at a grocery store to support her one child, and STILL need subsidized housing in order to live here. That’s just how bad the situation is.

  • I hear ya Lonnie. I have to come up with at least $2,000 a month just for the kids. That doesn’t included anyhthing else like home, food, medical, cable utilites etc. JC

  • I personally would like to see an increase in the number of affordable rentals in this city. The prices seem to be based on the presumption that, if you are single, you either want to share a home with 3 college students or work 2 jobs just to have some privacy.

  • ” I mean the poverty rate in Charlottesville is around 30%.” “I’m guessng their are a lot of trust funds around this town.” Am I to understand that 70% of the residents in Charlottesville have trust funds?

  • Homesteader, there are additional comments on this topic that may be of interest to you at http://www.cvillenews.com/2008/01/29/county-assessments-level/#comments near the bottom.

  • The poverty rate is 30%? I thought is was more about 22% and was considered to be slightly inflated.

    Not trying to argue, just doen’t know where the 30% came from.

  • Perlogik, it’s not Cville Eye’s statistic. I was quoting JC Clark. I have long disagreed with the Fed’s definition of poverty. However, what everybody at City Hall knows, that number includes many off-grounds students’ annual employment income, but not their parents’ contributions nor their student loan amounts. Meredith Richards could always be counted upon to remind Council of this when they carelessly started throwing this statistic around.

  • A Majority Of People In This Town Make Between $8-$10 An Hour. That’s Roughly $1,400-$1,600-Month. After Taxes You May Bring Home Between $750-$900. Median Home Price In Chville $278,000. If That Isn’t A Recipe For Poverty, I Don’t Know What Is. JC

  • Yes Cville Eye. It Wouldn’t Shock Met To Find Out That 7 Out Of 10 People In This Town Are Trust Funds Or Are being HEAVILY Supported By Someone Else Besides Themselves. I Mean How Many Ex’s Are Living Off Big Alimony Checks And Then Never Marry Again, Because If They Did, The Checks Would Stop. I Know Of One Women Who Is Getting Over $4,000 A Month And Has A Live In Boyfriend. She Told Me It’s Great, But She Would Never Again Marry, Because The 4K Would Stop If She Did…JC

  • JC Clark, that’s evidence that one person is receiving a check, where is the evidence about the other 28,000? “A Majority Of People In This Town Make Between $8-$10 An Hour.” Why are they working? Why don’t they just live off of their $4k checks?

  • “Median Home Price In Chville $278,000.” Median does not mean that every house costs at least that, it means half of the houses are on the market for below that and half above. Maybe they should buy the ones below. Do a search on http://mycaar.com/(niudwl45y2kz5sj4g1bkon3v)/Default.aspx and see what the market is really like currently.

  • Cville Eye –

    Thanks for pointing out how truly terrible mycaar.com’s links are. :)

    In Charlottesville/Albemarle, there are currently 297 properties in the MLS under $250k. There are 163 under $200k. Of those 163 properties, 3 have at least three bedrooms.

    There are options out there for those with decent credit, a little bit of money and the intention and ability to stay put for a little while.

    Of course, you could always search here. :)

  • Thanks, Mr. Duncan for the timely info. I thought I had tested that link. Can’t multitask. Have heard you and Dave Phillips at times on the radio I believe. Went to you site yesterday looking for the median sales prices for the surrounding counties at any point last year and gave up after about twenty minutes. I thought I had seen a report there for the first half of last year.
    Recently, I’ve noticed several properties in the lower price catagory coming off of the market after six months. Perhaps they’ll return this spring. Unfortunately, somebody has convinced a lot of people that the City of Charlottesville is responsible for providing housing opportunities for any and everybody that wishes to live here at a price he can afford and tailored to his needs, even if it means the tax payer must pay part of the mortgage.

  • Here is the link to the Market Statistics category on my blog.

    I expect we’ll see even more properties come on in the Spring. As far as the affordable housing debate, CAAR has shifted their part of the conversation to “Workforce Housing,” which focuses on nurses, teachers, police officers, etc. It’s a different debate than the “affordable housing” debate.

  • I Know Of One Women Who Is Getting Over $4,000 A Month And Has A Live In Boyfriend. She Told Me It’s Great, But She Would Never Again Marry, Because The 4K Would Stop If She Did…

    While I sadly acknowledge that a bigger problem is getting absentee dads to pay up, I can’t help but wonder if the situation you mention above might be covered by common law marriage?

    In many states, and I think Virginia might be one but I’m not sure, if you cohabitate with a non-related person of the opposite gender for over a certain length of time then you can be legally considered married for some circumstances. If I was the man in question sending the checks, I’d be counting the months and bring her to court eventually demanding that the checks cease since she is effectively married via common law. It may require a private eye to prove, or a subpoena of financial records, but those aren’t hard to do.

    Off topic, I know, but I’d also support legislation that would deny any child support payments when joint custody and visitation is denied (Unless the father has been convicted of abuse or neglect).

  • Lonnie,

    The common law marriage won’t hold up in court in regards to alimony payments. Extremely difficult to prove. FYI, she has no children and I agree there are plenty of absentee Fathers and also Mothers. JC

  • Not a big fan of people getting alimony who have no children. Once upon a time, there was a good reason for that, but now that most women are part of the workforce we need to treat them as equal citizens (of course we should also pay them equally for equal work). Either that, or we need to ensure that men are equally entitled to seek compensation if they make less than their wife. I understand that it does happen, but rarely.

    My preference though is for no money to be exchanged at all. Divorces are ugly enough without putting cash into the equation. Of course, I know it’ll never happen. We’re a country controlled by lawyers so they’d never choose to shoot themselves in the foot.

    Have I just ruined my image as a good liberal?

  • Lonnie, there is no common law marriage in Virginia.

  • That’s good, because then you’d have been married to your previous roommate, and then he’d be guilty of polygamy!

    ;-)

  • I knew you’d bring that up. For years everyone thought we were married anyway. I wouldn’t have wanted to take on half his debt, but I wouldn’t have minded taking half the cats.

  • With regard to the Workforce housing Fund: any teacher in Charlottesville City with more than a year or two’s experience fails to qualify for those funds (they make more than 80% of the area’s median income, by a couple thousand dollars). It’s a catch-22 – teachers make too much to qualify for help, but not enough to afford a median priced home.

  • “It’s a catch-22 – teachers make too much to qualify for help, but not enough to afford a median priced home.” What is the exact nature of this help and why should they be able to buy a median priced home? Why not something that costs less?

  • Good point. I just don’t think they should say the fund is for teachers (among others) when teachers cannot qualify.

  • anonymous makes an excellent point concerning the program’s effectiveness. Are there and evaluations of the program to see if the targeted clientele are taking advantage of the program? Or is this really a “feel good” programs that is just stockpiling money. If only a few people are taking advantage shouldn’t the contributors, such as those who are holding fund-raisers, know this so that they can stop wasting their time and re-direct their benefits to other causes? There’s no point in disillusioning well-intentioned people.

  • Teachers in the city of charlottesville start off at $41 K per year, plus benefits…health insurance..long vacations..etc…etc. I don’t see how making this much money would allow them to qualify for any type of housing assistance.
    According to an earlier post in this blog the median income for a household in charlottesville is $32K, way less than what a starting teacher in the city makes.
    I really don’t think teachers need any more public assistance.
    Finally, why does everyone think teachers, policemen, firemen and health care workers have to have a house priced at the median price or above? The first or starter home should be something a lot less expensive than the median priced home. Once your salary increases in a few years then you can think about moving up.

  • This generation has grown up with credit accounts and credit cards and is used to getting what it wants NOW. There is no waiting, saving up for, or adding to later; planning in other words. This is a fact of modern life. If their parents don’t make it possible for them, then the government must.

  • Finally, why does everyone think teachers, policemen, firemen and health care workers have to have a house priced at the median price or above?

    It’s not “everyone” that’s the problem here. The job market demands these things. Without them, we won’t have people filling those jobs, which is precisely why we have a shortage of police officers. We’re free to offer crappy pay and expensive housing, but we can’t pretend to be surprised when we can’t fill those positions.

    That’s capitalism.

  • I’m not sure what you mean by “this generation”, but I find that my spending habits tend to be more responsible than the boomer generation. For example, I never carry a balance on a credit card.

    I’m thinking that if you do stats on who is in massive debt among most Americans, you’ll find a good percentage of those people are over forty. That said, rising prices of college are also causing more people to start their careers with significant debt.

  • Then Lonnie, you must be one of the few exceptions. We baby boomers aren’t creating debt; we’re wondering how we are going to afford retirement, find a smaller house and pass something on to our children.

  • Teachers, policemen and firemen have become the newest segment of our population to feel that they are entitled to live off of entitlement programs paid for by the taxpayers.
    Waldo, where do you see a shortage of policemen? City of Charlottesville, Albemarle county? I don’t feel like I am going without police protection. Everytime I ride up and down the 250 by-pass I usually see two or three traffic cops shooting radar and the county is almost as bad. Our police officers make way more than enough for what they do. Salary has very little do with the turnover in police departments.

  • Waldo, where do you see a shortage of policemen? City of Charlottesville, Albemarle county?

    It’s well outside of my abilities to assess whether we have enough law enforcement. The city says that they lack sufficient police officers, and they can’t hire them with the amount of money that they’re prepared to pay, so that would appear to be that.

    For the purpose of this discussion, though, it’s simply not relevant whether there’s a shortage of policemen; whether or not we need more policemen, the fact remains that the city is hiring, but can’t find people. You’re saying that these jobs pay well enough for people to afford to live in Charlottesville. The fact that people are not taking the jobs is clear evidence to the contrary.

  • Jogger. For many of us the knowledge that police officers will respond to an emergency allows us to sleep sounder then the knowledge that “President Bush is on watch”.

  • Waldo when the police say they can’t hire for the amount of money being offered, that to me is crap and a ploy by longo to get starting pay raised even higher than it already is. Teachers use the same ploy each year to get their 6% – 8% raises when in fact there is an abundance of both candidates for teaching and police work. As far as evidence that salaries are to low for teachers and policemen to live in Charlottesville that is also crap. Many policemen do not choose to live in the city. For the money they are being paid they can afford to buy or rent a house if they wish. They do not need to start out owning a house at or above the median price of a house in Charlottesville. We have more than one policeman living in Dunlora and other very nice and expensive developments.
    Nalle, I think I’ll use my vote this november to cancel your vote. Try to get some sleep.

  • Waldo when the police say they can’t hire for the amount of money being offered, that to me is crap and a ploy by longo to get starting pay raised even higher than it already is.

    Explain how you believe that it’s “crap and a ploy”; your assertion that it is so does nothing to rebut all evidence to the contrary. Do you believe that they’re not actually advertising the position? Or that all applicants are being turned away, despite being qualified? What, specifically, is the mechanism of this ploy?

    As far as evidence that salaries are to low for teachers and policemen to live in Charlottesville that is also crap.

    We’ve had this discussion here before, and it’s been more than adequately demonstrated that it’s not possible to own a home and support a family on the salary of a teacher or a police officer without many years of seniority. Here’s some quick math.

    Imagine a hypothetical family: father, full-time mother, two young children. The father becomes a city teacher, for which he’s paid $41,000. After income taxes, let’s say he’s left with $30,750. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to pay more than a third of your income on a mortgage, but, hey, they’re just getting started, so they’re going to spend 40%. That’s $1,025 / month for the home, insurance, and property tax. If their insurance runs them just $1,000/year, and they can get a 6.2% interest rate on a 30-year mortgage, then that means they can afford a $135,000 house.

    Let’s see what we can find our hypothetical family on CAAR’s website. I find a grand total of eight properties and, I’ve got to say, they’re not looking real good. There’s a townhouse…on Prospect Ave. There’s a condo…on Wertland. (The photo of the backyard includes, no kidding, a crushed beer can in the dirt yardlet.) There’s a similar condo on JPA. Another on Rose Hill is generously described as a “fixer upper,” with the explicit disclaimer that “owner will not be responsible for damages/repair.” Another, on Page, is “begging for renovation.” The next is a studio apartment. The next is “in need of major renovation” and “a diamond in the rough.” The next, again, “sold as-is” and an “investor opportunity.” It basically continues along this vein, houses that can’t be lived in without significant renovations.

    So there’s my supporting evidence. If you still believe that “evidence that salaries are to low for teachers and policemen to live in Charlottesville that is also crap,” I hope you’ll provide some evidence to support your assertion.

    Many policemen do not choose to live in the city.

    Right — because it’s too expensive. And when we have policemen who are not a part of the city, that’s a serious detriment to their ability to understand it well enough to fight crime.

  • Waldo you started out with “hypothetical” and ended with lunacy.

  • Actually, I checked not ten minutes ago with a realtor friend, and, using the 28% formula and not the current credit rating formula, Waldo is in the right ball park, assuming THE PERSON ISN’T BUYING A CAR (is debt-free). He can afford even less with a $125 monthly car payment. Also, there’s nothing on the market in the surrounding counties either on that site. Therefore, the conclusion can be made for any first-year public school teacher (I have no idea what the private schools are paying) in central VA.

  • Waldo you started out with “hypothetical” and ended with lunacy.

    So what you’re saying is that you’re unable to support or defend your unsourced assertions?

  • Waldo if you have ever purchased a home you know that you do not get a job one day and become a home owner the next day. You have to have some degree of stability in your life, i.e. worked at same job for a period of time, have a few bucks saved up to put down on the home, have a fixed address of more than 6 months,…etc. etc. A person just starting out on a new job does not usually qualify for a mortgage but some mortgage companies might take a chance (and that is one of the main reasons the housing industry, mortgage industry is in the shape it is in today). Secondly, the economics of today requires a two household income just to get by, house, car, the usual items..etc…etc. A single teacher, policeman, fireman, etc. needs to be employeed on the job for at least a couple of years before they should ever start thinking about owning a home. They need some degree of consistency and stability in their lives before taking the biggest financial plunge they will take in their lives, and I for one do not want my tax dollars to support them if they can’t do it on their own. They make enough money do get along financially without taxpayer sponsored entitlements.

  • I’m with both Jogger and Waldo on this. I’m with Jogger because anyone expecting to invest in a home within the first 2 years of taking an entry-level position here is unreasonable. First you have to prove stability, second you have to save for the downpayment. I’m with Waldo, because, unfortunately, even a $41,000/year salary looks very good to at least half the workers of Charlottesville. Many earn much less and have no hope of qualifying for squat even after 5-10 years on the job, given that salaries rarely keep pace with housing assessments in Charlottesville and Albemarle.

  • Waldo if you have ever purchased a home you know that you do not get a job one day and become a home owner the next day. You have to have some degree of stability in your life, i.e. worked at same job for a period of time, have a few bucks saved up to put down on the home, have a fixed address of more than 6 months,…etc. etc.

    Even if I redo the math with a really awesome raise after a couple of years — say, $43,000/year before taxes — and $10,000 down for the house, the fact remains that housing is far too expensive. Besides, you’ve got to recognize that there are lots of places in the state where a young couple with a couple of kids could easily afford a house on a $41,000 year salary, so why would they move to Charlottesville where they couldn’t afford a house?

    Secondly, the economics of today requires a two household income just to get by, house, car, the usual items..etc…etc.

    No they don’t. The economics of Charlottesville require a two-income household. And, again, that’s yet another reason why Charlottesville is having a difficult time attracting people to fill these open positions.

    Just to be clear, since you’re not answering the question, you’re not going to attempt to back up your accusation that the Charlottesville Police are manufacturing an artificial employee shortage?

  • Waldo you obviously have not been keeping up with what is going on in the national economy. You continue to start off with the “hypothetical” and end up with a conclusion based on lunacy. You and Dave Norris need to hold each others hands and led us all in the “wonderful world of socialism”. You obviously do not understand the free market system or believe in the free market system.
    The average teacher salary in the city of Charlottesville after 5 years of service is over $51K per year. An adequate income to afford a house in Charlottesville. Living singly or as a couple with two incomes. When you make the decison to purchase your first home it does not have to be at the median or above median price. Understand?
    I repeat again there are no shortages of qualified teachers, policemen, firemen or professional health care workers. You will always have one or two vacancies for whatever reasons, but not enough vacancies to affect or be able to maintain adequate services to the public. I know this is awfully difficult for you to grasp Waldo, but just think about if for awhile and it will be very clear, or in your case maybe not.

  • Jogger, I’m not seeing the “lunacy” here. If you can find some decent houses in the Cville area – not fixer-uppers that are barely inhabitable, not one-bedroom condos – that one can afford on even a 51K salary – then please share them with us. I’m sure many would be interested.

    What I’m not entirely buying, though, is the argument that the teachers, cops, etc, are avoiding Cville just because of the pay. I don’t know what northern VA pays its cops, but the starting teacher salaries aren’t that much better than those here, and you better believe housing is way more expensive up there, and somehow they manage to hire anyway. I think it’s more that there isn’t really anything to entice a young college grad to the Cville area, and the salaries don’t help. Charlottesville has lots of families and lots of students, and not a lot of 20-somethings. Northern VA is appealing because it has a great social scene for many young people and many graduates of Virginia colleges are from there anyway, a lower-cost-of-living area like SW VA might be appealing because it’s cheap. And as far as recruiting cops goes, stories about them running down pedestrians and getting away with it or shoving pregnant women to the ground probably don’t help much.

  • Meg, may I suggest that you look at the property transfers in the daily progress business magazine which is published each monday. Many, many, houses priced way below the median price of $270K are selling in the city. In all locations of the city, and not condos. You have to be on the look out for an affordable house, and when you find the right house you have to be a good negotiator. The house will not find you. You have to find the house. You have to put some effort into your search. People have become so used to having everything handed to them that they do not know how to do things for themselves. Same thing with a car. If you do not get at least 12 – 14% off the MSRP then you can figure you have been s%#@!*& on that transaction.
    Once again from many, many experiences my .02.

  • Meg, may I suggest that you look at the property transfers in the daily progress business magazine which is published each monday. Many, many, houses priced way below the median price of $270K are selling in the city.

    You’re the only one talking about a median price. We’re talking about any house.

    Do the math. Like I did, demonstrate how a $51k pre-tax household income on a reasonable budget could allow the purchase of any livable household in Charlottesville. If it’s as straightforward as you say, it shouldn’t take you long.

  • Some of the property transfers listed are misleading in that they are the auction price, the divorce settlement price or the book price upon transferring from one LLP to another.
    As I have said many times in many circles these past five years, the hidden policy of City Hall is to change the demographics in the City and they have been and will continue to be effective. My amusement will be when they won’t be able to afford living in the City themselves.

  • It seems Gary O’Connell is saying that the City has about $700K less this year to allocate to affordable housing and that it will take over $700k to start a new emergency medical serivce. Why is the City starting a new service if it doesn’t have the money to maintain the current ones? Many people came forward to ask for more funding for housing. Many people have criticized the new EMS program and fire station. If Council is REALLY listening to the public (and not me) why doesn’t it re-allocate the money set aside for the EMS (it has not been spent) to the housing fund? I’m sure Mr. O’Connell will tell them they can not do it, but they can. They just re-allocated and carried forward a lot of unspent funds last December. It’s time for Council to start taking control of the budget and stop rubber stamping a bunch of double talk by staff. I’ve noticed in the news report of the pre-release of the budget to the public, that the City’s budget is going up a little over 4% this year. The increase is earmarked largely for the staff salaries for both the City and schools. We can really see what the priorities are of the staffs that prepare the budgets. (Salaries, first, if you didn’t get it.)

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