Home Waynesboro City Council, RHA address affordable housing crisis for those on the fringe

Waynesboro City Council, RHA address affordable housing crisis for those on the fringe

Crystal Graham
affordable housing crisis market
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The City of Waynesboro is in need of more affordable housing for its working-class citizens – people who make too much to qualify for housing subsidies but who cannot pay the large price a lot of complexes charge for monthly rent.

Waynesboro Redevelopment and Housing Authority Executive Director Kim Byrd made a presentation to Waynesboro City Council Monday night to address the affordable housing crisis in the River City.

“When I refer to affordable housing, I’m mainly referring to rental properties,” said Byrd. “And when you when you really think about it, I know Waynesboro has a lot of building going on, a lot of new construction as far as apartment complexes, and things like that, but those types of complexes are not really affordable.”

For most working-class people earning $15 an hour, Byrd said, new apartment complexes are not an option. Statistically, she said, 30 percent of income should be allocated for rent. But when you do the numbers, there aren’t a lot of options for these households on the fringe.

“What I’m referring to is providing housing for people who are working at Walmart or working at the gas stations or working at Lowe’s, that type of affordable housing,” she said. “It’s housing that’s affordable for folks who are more of a median income.”

Byrd said affordable housing isn’t the same thing as low-income housing.

“There’s a real need for affordable housing. That’s your workforce housing, that your housing where the working class really need to live,” she said. “A lot of people confuse low-income housing with affordable housing.”

Byrd said low-income residents generally qualify for vouchers that can be used to subsidize rent in the city. Examples are people who qualify for public housing or are on social security, SSI or single-income households. A family of four, for example, cannot make more than $42,000 to be eligible for a voucher.

To help with the mission of having more affordable housing, Byrd said, the Housing Authority has a nonprofit affiliate called the South River Development Corporation.

Through the affiliate, the city has about 200 affordable housing units including Fairfax Hall, Mountain View apartments, six apartments above the downtown Ross museum, and other single-family homes, duplexes and townhouses.

“I feel like there’s certainly advantages for the Housing Authority, as well as our nonprofit South River Development Corporation, to partner with the city to provide the affordable housing that the City of Waynesboro needs,” Byrd said.

Byrd said partnerships are available through different state and local organizations including Virginia Housing and the Virginia Community Development Corporation. She also pointed to low-income and historic tax credits who also help with low-interest funding for building and renovation projects that are rent restricted and therefore, more affordable.

She said that in a rent restricted situation, the housing is set aside for people who qualify based on their income. Someone making $200,000 a year wouldn’t qualify.

Byrd said she’d also like to see more focus on homelessness that does have barriers due to environmental and mental health issues.

Byrd said she welcomes the opportunity to sit down and discuss how the city would like to partner with the Housing Authority and the South River Development Corporation to look further at solutions to affordable housing in the city. She told council members that developers are in the business of building complexes to make money. A nonprofit, however, can focus on providing affordable housing.

“Our job is to provide safe, decent affordable housing,” she said. “The push now is to provide more workforce housing for people who are who are working and making minimum wage, because, again, there’s not enough subsidized housing to go around.

“There’s not enough vouchers to go around. So it’s the people that make too much income for that, but then make not enough income for the market rate housing, so that’s the need that we need to, to work towards.”

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.