State Budget Funds Local Sewer Projects, Affordable Housing

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By Stefanie Jackson – Del. Rob. Bloxom announced at the June meeting of the Eastern Shore Regional Housing Coalition that the state budget had been finalized and included funding for sewer projects in both Accomack and Northampton counties.

The Virginia budget for the 2022-2024 biennium, signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday, provides almost $76 million for Department of Environmental Quality grants, including nearly $12 million in grants for Eastern Shore sewer projects.

The final DEQ grant awards represent a compromise among Virginia legislators, with some Shore localities receiving roughly two-thirds of the funding they requested.

The DEQ grant awards are: $4.5 million for Accomac, $3.5 million for Exmore, $2.4 million for Wachapreague, and $1.5 million for Parksley.

The Hampton Roads Sanitation District has begun the construction of a force main that will run along U.S. Route 13, from Nassawadox to Accomac, and transport wastewater to the Onancock treatment facility. The project will take about two years to complete.

Bloxom reported the budget includes $150 million for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund to preserve existing or create new affordable housing.

The budget states concerning the Virginia Housing Trust Fund that “priority consideration shall be given to efforts to reduce the number of homeless youth and families and to expand permanent supportive housing.”

Bloxom said the state budget also includes $255 million to establish a new housing tax credit program. The budget calls the program a “housing opportunity tax credit.” A taxpayer with a qualifying housing project receives one-tenth of the total tax credit per year over a 10-year period.

Clara Vaughn, Eastern Shore constituent services representative for Congresswoman Elaine Luria, will send a survey to developers who took a bus tour of the Shore on May 9 to visit areas that are prime for housing development. The survey will inform the Eastern Shore Regional Housing Coalition on how it can support the goal of attracting more developers to the region.

The Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission has released its 2022 regional housing study and presented it to each county’s board of supervisors.

A-NPDC Executive Director Elaine Meil had shared some details from the study at a housing forum in Eastville May 9, following the bus tour. She said Accomack and Northampton are short 1,000 housing units, and A-NPDC can produce only 10 to 20 units per year.

“Obviously, that’s not something that one independent group is going to be ever able to fix. It’s going to take a whole host of developers and people … to make up that particular gap,” Meil said during the housing forum.

Participants at the recent Eastern Shore Regional Housing Coalition meeting suggested that Accomack and Northampton supervisors should form a committee or task force, possibly through the housing coalition, to work on the housing study’s recommendations if A-NPDC cannot implement them.

Since the housing coalition’s 2021 summit, members have discussed possibly creating a position within a local housing organization to address critical housing needs. Virginia Housing stated it lacks the resources to fund such a position but a response from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development is pending.

The Eastern Shore Regional Housing Coalition’s 2022 summit and conference is scheduled on Friday, Sept. 23, at the Eastern Shore Community College Workforce Development Center. VDHCD staff members Joanne Peerman and Nichele Carver will discuss options for people with critical housing needs. Allen Andrs, of Virginia Housing, and Bobbie Jo Wert, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, will discuss the application processes for their respective agencies.

The New Road community of Exmore will host a ribbon-cutting July 15 for the six new homes that make up Phase 1 of the New Road Community Development Group’s Legacy Project. The organization will celebrate its 30th anniversary the following day.

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