The City and County of Culpeper is partnering with the People, Inc. community action agency on a proposed low-income housing complex consisting of 60 apartments in three three-story buildings.
One-bedroom apartments would cost around $700 a month and $800 a month for a two-bedroom one, for people living at or below the poverty line, according to the nonprofit developer.
The project is proposed for construction on several local government owned plots of just under 6 acres, one of the few vacant plots in the city. We are at the end of Lightfoot and Bickers Street, next to Head Start on Old Fredericksburg Road.
Last week, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the donation of 5.5 county-owned acres on the site to the project People, Inc. intends to build with tax credits. for low incomes through the state.
The community action agency unveiled a housing renovation in Culpeper Crossing at the end of North East Street earlier this year, where rent-controlled units received new carpeting, appliances, paint and an exterior awning, among other improvements.
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The housing complex, which will be accessed from Lightfoot Street, will maintain an open space footprint and include a public play area. The county will hold a public hearing on the project at its March 1 night meeting.
A city committee last week recommended donating the city’s 0.4-acre parcel. City Council will hold a public hearing on the matter at its meeting on Tuesday, February 8.
Salem Supervisor Tom Underwood moved approval for the county land donation at Tuesday’s meeting, seconded by East Fairfax Supervisor Kathy Campbell, in whose district the project is located.
City Manager Chris Hively said with the donation, the city will designate the land as a revitalization area, to improve tax credit application. He said the property was worth nothing to the city other than to be used as a future right of way.
“It’s more about us giving them the area they need to meet their green spaces (requirement),” Hively said. He said the development would be built on the back portion of county property.
People, Inc. director of development Bryan Ailey, present at the second meeting of the board of supervisors in as many months, presented a site layout plan for the project on Tuesday after hearing numerous questions from the board in January.
Culpeper’s director of social services, Lisa Peacock, told council last month she was excited about the affordable housing complex, after holding numerous meetings with various groups like Foothills Housing Network, trying to create more places where people can afford to live.
“The opportunity right now is in terms of funding,” Peacock said. “There is a lot of money available through grants.”
Foothills Housing Network and Regional Commission partner Patrick Mauney said funding sources were allocated by the state for the five counties. The People, Inc. project would address needs identified in last year’s regional housing study, he said.
People, Inc. has been providing solutions to poverty in Virginia communities, including housing, since the 1960s, said Bryan Phipps, the community action agency’s new CEO.
Tax credits for housing projects use money from private investors to develop income-eligible housing, he said in January, ahead of the application deadline in March.
Ailey told council last month that rents would be guaranteed for at least 15 years. He said the agency’s intention is to keep the projects, not sell them, and to keep them affordable.
Catalpa supervisor Paul Bates said he would hate if that didn’t happen, with housing being built on land donated by the city and county.
“Or, it’s not the most desirable area to live in, that would be my only other concern with this project,” Bates said of the low-income neighborhood with run-down areas.
Phipps said the agency takes the upkeep and conservation of its properties very seriously, citing the former Brandywine Private Apartments on East Street.
“We’ve taken a market-rate project and made it affordable,” said the CEO of People, Inc. “Our mission is to take projects and make sure they’re available to residents at affordable rates.”
The agency also provides housing counseling and homeownership classes for residents, Phipps said.
A financial management course should be mandatory for residents of Section 8 rent-controlled housing, Bates said, citing people working multiple jobs to afford a market-priced apartment in Culpeper.
“A lot of times how you handle that money, what you spend needs to be addressed,” the supervisor said.
People, Inc. does not impose mandatory financial literacy training requirements on residents, Ailey said. The agency tries to provide safe, affordable and decent housing, working with community partners to provide associated services, he said.
Residents need to earn enough money to live there and they need to work, Ailey said. The more restrictions placed on people, the smaller the net becomes for the people they can help, he added.
“Some people just need a decent place to live. That’s the goal of this project,” Ailey said.
Stevensburg Supervisor Susan Gugino asked if affordable housing complexes are becoming less desirable places to live over time, referring to the proximity of Head Start headquarters and Kid Central next door.
People, Inc. actively manages the properties and reserves reserves for ongoing improvements and maintenance, Ailey replied.
Supervisor Campbell supported the project.
“As a real estate broker, we need homes like you wouldn’t believe,” she said. “Even with them building this, we need more. I don’t think we have to drag our feet, we have to move forward.
Campbell tried to get things done last month, with the backing of Chairman Gary Deal, who said rents were rising across the city and county.
Jefferson supervisor Brad Rosenberger said the project needed verification, but backed it up in February with the rest of the board.