By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack and Northampton County officials and community leaders have come together to take action on the Eastern Shore’s lack of affordable housing.
The initiative began at a September housing summit organized by Ava Wise and sponsored by Sen. Lynwood Lewis.
The group committed itself to quarterly meetings, the second of which was held Dec. 6.
The participants reached a consensus that more networking is needed with organizations and individuals in the public and private sectors and at the local and state levels, with the goal of obtaining assistance in planning and funding affordable housing projects.
The group identified a need on the Eastern Shore for more Community Housing Development Organizations, or CHDOs (pronounced “choh-dohs”).
A private nonprofit organization that aims to develop affordable housing in the community can become a CHDO with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
A nonprofit that attains CHDO status has been certified by DHCD as qualified for the HUD HOME program (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Home Investment Partnership Fund).
The fund awards about $2 billion annually to states, in the form of a federal block grant, to provide affordable housing to low-income Americans.
The New Road Community Development Group, of Exmore, will soon regain its CHDO status under Wise’s leadership. Two more CHDOs are desired, including one possibly in Bayside and another elsewhere on the Shore.
Another possible resource is NCALL, the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor Research Fund, a nonprofit in Dover, Del., that has assisted the development of affordable housing on the Delmarva peninsula since 1976.
NCALL has helped local nonprofits develop multi-family housing such as apartments, and it has assisted low-income homebuyers with financial education and counseling and foreclosure prevention programs.
NCALL is certified by HUD as a housing counseling agency, and it is certified by the U.S. Treasury as both a community development financial institution and a community development entity.
NCALL, a member of the NeighborWorks America group, can provide housing development training to Shore residents and organizations.
A-NPDC (Accomack-Northampton Planning Commission) planned to arrange a meet-and-greet with NCALL members by the next quarterly housing meeting.
A-NPDC Director of Housing Development Bobbie Wert noted her organization has been successful obtaining funds for housing from USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), giving the Eastern Shore an advantage in finding affordable housing opportunities.
For example, the Eastern Shore of Virginia Housing Alliance, in association with the A-NPDC, is developing a new project, Bailey Road Apartments, in Parksley.
The project will feature 24 rental homes in one-story and two-story duplex style, available to agricultural workers and retirees. USDA will offer farmworker rental assistance at the property.
“That is the exception and that’s the advantage we have down here, because it’s not happening across the country,” said Dave Moore, who works on tax-credit housing development for a Delaware nonprofit.
A-NPDC Executive Director Elaine Meil agreed. “So that Bailey Road project … when we got that one through, I got a phone call the next day from someone in Mississippi that called me and said, ‘How did you actually get that done?’”
DHCD and VHDA (Virginia Housing Development Authority) are also “wonderful partners,” Wert said.
Wise recommended developing relationships with organizations like nonprofit Milford Housing Development Corporation, in Delaware, which calls itself a “one-stop shop” for affordable housing.
“They can take a project from conception all the way through to management of the property once it’s built,” Wise said.
“The reason I wanted to partner with them … is so that, as we’re thinking about our development projects moving forward, we have a partner who is full-service, who can stand with us from beginning to end.”