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The Community Foundation Blog

Innovative Approaches to Affordable Housing
By The Community Foundation / September 20, 2018
Innovative Approaches to Affordable Housing

Housing stability affects nearly every aspect of a person’s life: the ability to retain a job or succeed in school, to stay healthy and safe, to build wealth for their family. Two of the Community Foundation’s partners – Richmond Opportunities, Inc. and Maggie Walker Community Land Trust – presented their unique approaches to housing stability and affordability during our Giving Insights in Affordable Housing event this September.

Richmond Opportunities, Inc.

One of the first steps for redeveloping the Creighton Court public housing community involves 154 project-based vouchers. Residents can use these vouchers to move out of the aging and inadequate East End housing complex and into newly developed properties in the Greater Richmond area – a daunting task for those who don’t know where to start.

With the Family Transition Coach program through Richmond Opportunities, Inc. (ROI), trained professionals work one-on-one with residents to explore how they can thrive as they transition out of public housing. Coaches build relationships with families to determine residents’ goals and aspirations, what roadblocks they face, and how to vault those obstacles. 

Elaine Summerfield, executive director for Richmond Opportunities Inc., likens the process to sports coaching. If a soccer player misses a shot, the coach can suggest a different way to kick the ball. “It’s just a little guidance on the way, and really giving people the confidence to even consider the change that could be possible within their families,” Elaine said.

For example, one Creighton Court resident who worked with ROI had steady income – paying upwards of $800 every month in rent – but had difficulty entering the private housing market due to past credit issues. Her family transition coach connected her with Habitat for Humanity. This fall, after a year of hard work, this resident will be moving into her own home that she helped to build.

Maggie Walker Community Land Trust

Maggie Walker Community Land Trust (MWCLT) addresses another significant need in Richmond’s ever-evolving real estate market: affordable homeownership. As real estate prices climb astronomically each year, owning a home becomes more and more difficult for many Richmond residents. MWCLT utilizes the community land trust model to offer affordable homes to prospective buyers today and to keep those homes affordable for years to come.

Under this model, MWCLT purchases blighted and frequently tax-delinquent properties and rebuilds or renovates a home on each site. By retaining ownership of the land beneath the house, MWCLT can sell the home to income-qualified buyers at a cost significantly lower than market value. Then, when that homeowner is ready to sell, they keep 50% of the increase in value and leave the rest in the home – an added measure to ensure that the house stays affordable for the next buyer.

For residents of neighborhoods like Church Hill, where housing prices have quadrupled over a four-year span, MWCLT brings homeownership back into the realm of possibility. “One of the goals of a land trust is to ensure that we preserve a mixture of incomes” within these communities, said Laura Lafayette, board chair for MWCLT, “and that folks that have historically lived in those neighborhoods have an opportunity to stay in those neighborhoods.”

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