By Stefanie Jackson – The Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission (A-NPDC) will receive a $1 million grant from Virginia Housing, the not-for-profit formerly known as the Virginia Housing Development Authority, which recently announced a total of $40 million for Virginia’s 21 planning district commissions.
The grants will be awarded through the Virginia Housing program REACH (Resources Enabling Affordable Community Housing), which seeks “to increase both rental and homeownership housing opportunities in Virginia,” explained A-NPDC Executive Director Elaine Meil.
A-NPDC plans to spend its $1 million building 10 houses, including four new homes on Occohannock Neck Road in Exmore.
The homes will be built on land where nine substandard rental houses once stood, which had no indoor plumbing and depended on shallow wells.
Last spring, the families who were renting the houses were relocated, and the derelict structures were demolished.
A-NPDC also included on its grant application a proposal to build no less than six additional houses at another location to be determined.
Meil recommends anyone interested in purchasing an affordable home sign up for A-NPDC’s Homebuyer Education class by contacting Hugh Hennessy at 757-787-2936, ext. 124.
The class is offered periodically throughout the year; the next one will be held in late September or early October.
Virginia Housing previously has provided funding to planning district commissions through its Capacity Building and Community Impact grant program.
(The term “capacity building” does not refer to home construction but building an organization’s ability to carry out its mission through activities such as recruiting volunteers, hiring staff and providing them training, investing in technology, partnering with other organizations, lobbying elected officials, fundraising, and raising public awareness.)
Virginia Housing’s new initiative “marks the first time it has provided funding to invest directly into housing production,” stated a July 13 press release.
A-NPDC will build new homes, but other planning district commissions will renovate vacant and blighted properties, create upper-story housing in downtown business districts, or invest in regional housing trusts. Each planning district commission is given the flexibility to use its share of the available funding how it sees fit.
The new initiative puts members of the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions “in a very significant position to be able to address housing issues in their areas because it gives them the flexibility to use the funding where it’s needed to develop new rental, homeowner, and mixed-use housing opportunities,” said Chris Thompson, Virginia Housing’s strategic housing director.
He said “they consider this a real game changer.”
Virginia Housing’s Chief Executive Officer Susan Dewey said, “We are proud to provide these grants to Virginia’s 21 PDCs. We have a close working relationship with these organizations, and this grant program will build upon that partnership.”
“When homes are affordable and accessible to jobs, good schools, and transportation, everyone benefits. Individual lives improve and communities as a whole grow stronger,” the press release stated.
Virginia Housing was created by the General Assembly in 1972 but does not receive state taxpayer dollars.
Instead, the not-for-profit raises money by investing in the capital market (which includes the stock market, bond market, and currency and foreign exchange markets). Virginia Housing’s members “contribute a significant portion of our net revenues each year to help meet Virginia’s most difficult housing needs,” according to the release.
Virginia Housing also distributes its funds a bit differently than other housing organizations that require applicants to meet specific guidelines to qualify for funding and limit the types of projects on which the money can be spent.
“While we have many great partners, we often have to try to fit a square peg into a round hole but with Virginia Housing they tailor their programs to what Virginia needs,” Meil said.
“They’re great. I can’t say enough how much we appreciate them.”
(This story was updated Jul. 26. A previous version incorrectly referred to not-for-profit Virginia Housing as a nonprofit and Chris Thompson as Chris Thomas.)