Fifeville project tests mixed-income model

Fifeville project tests mixed-income model

Some time this spring, Charlottesville’s branch of Habitat for Humanity will apply for the rezoning of a parcel of land that is currently the site of the Sunrise Trailer Court off of Carlton Avenue. Presently, there are 17 trailers in the decades-old mobile home park, but Habitat is aiming for a much higher density and will likely try to build between 55 and 70 units. "We think it’s an appropriate location for a higher density because it’s on the bus line and close to Downtown," says Overton McGehee, the executive director of the Greater Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity. Construction will ideally begin by late 2008 on what would be a mixed-income housing development.

"It’s our chance to prove that mixed-income can work in Charlottesville," says Habitat’s Overton McGehee of the 35-unit Paton Street development.

That project will act as a precursor to a gigantic undertaking when Habitat redevelops the Southwood Mobile Home Estates. Currently, 371 units occupy 100 acres off Fifth Street Extended, but the land has a potential for 600 to 900 units of mixed income with a significant portion being affordable housing. The Southwood project is at least five years away though, and in the meantime, Habitat is using another mixed-income project—this one in the Fifeville neighborhood—as a testing ground for its future trailer park projects.

"It’s our chance to prove that mixed-income can work in Charlottesville," says McGehee of the development on Paton and Nunley Streets that will have three ranges of affordability. Eighteen volunteer-built Habitat units will sell to folks earning between 25 to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) while 10 more will be sold through Habitat’s sister nonprofit, Creative Housing, to families that earn up to 120 percent of the AMI. An extra seven market rate units will be built by a private developer. Six habitat families are already living in six homes on Nunley Street that were erected last year in a "Builder’s Blitz," when 11 builders finished them in eight days.

"At Nunley Street, we’re learning to create a mixed-income neighborhood, we’re learning to build in a higher density in tighter corners and learning to build two-story attached units," McGehee says. Six of the latter are currently under construction on Valley View Extended, just a stone’s throw away.

"We worked with the Fifeville Neighborhood Association and [city] Planning Commission on what should be the income mix there," says McGehee. "Typically, a neighborhood says we want more market rate units to help property values, but folks in Fifeville said we have a danger of gentrification." According to McGehee, 70 percent of the houses in the historic neighborhood are rental only. "We build owner occupied units that are affordable to folks who are from Fifeville," he says.

"We have a housing crisis," McGehee continues, pointing to an overall lack of workforce housing in the area. "We want to be part of the solution and the way we can do that is to build mixed-income neighborhoods."

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