Charlottesville City Council is to be commended for its willingness to try something new to address the affordable housing problem.
Council will make $1 million available to private developers from its economic development fund in the form of loans.
The fund usually is targeted toward traditional development projects such as businesses — even though the businesses themselves might not be conventional (the Pavilion is an example). But the idea — traditional also — is to boost companies that would bring employment to the city.
Using the fund to target housing is an effort to help the employees.
“There hasn’t been a great emphasis on the workforce, like teachers, firefighters and health-care providers,” said Councilor Holly Edwards (“City considers housing fund,” The Daily Progress, March 22).
Priced out of the market in both Charlottesville and Albemarle, many such workers are moving to the outlying counties. Yet their skills are needed to make our communities successful.
Up-front assistance from the city would provide meaningful incentives for private developers to build more low- and moderate-income housing within Charlottesville, officials reason.
The loans would be recouped in five to seven years.
City officials also see the loans in a more traditional sense. “The return of money through taxes and potential job creation” from new housing would more than justify the loans, city manager Gary O’Connell said (“Council agrees to jump-start housing effort,” April 23).
Using loans to target a different phase of the development continuum is an idea worth watching. Yes, the loans will promote “traditional” projects — bricks-and-mortar construction, buildings with taxable value. But the loans also will support the human component of economic growth — literally, the people whose work in turn supports a healthy city.
Time to preserve
Kudos to Appalachian Power Company for putting approximately 5,000 acres at Smith Mountain Lake in a conservation easement.
Here’s a case where development isn’t ideal.
Much private land is being lost around the lake, farms are disappearing, wildlife habitat declining. Five thousand acres of mostly woodland is a significant gift to conservation.
One company official estimated the economic value of the land in the tens of millions of dollars.