The redevelopment of Friendship Court public housing complex is close to breaking ground.

That’s more momentous than might appear on the surface.

Charlottesville’s leaders have been searching for many years, through the governance of many city councils, for answers to the city’s affordable housing problems.

One project won’t solve them, but this one project is a big step forward.

It’s also a step in a new direction.

Finding funding for housing solutions on a scale large enough to make an appreciable difference was one of the obstacles that faced various city councils. (Big projects aren’t the only answer, though; more on that next.)

Friendship Court will be redeveloped as a mix of affordable and market-rate units. The addition of market-rate units is part of a financing package that makes the project work; market prices for some units can help support lower rents for others.

The first stage of construction will begin on vacant land and will accommodate 35 multi-family homes and 71 apartments. Forty-six units will be occupied by current residents, who will vacate their current homes to allow the next section of Friendship Court to be redeveloped. No one will be displaced during the rolling phases of the project.

That first phase will start early this year, said officials from the Piedmont Housing Alliance, the organization that oversees Friendship Court. Work is expected to be completed in 15 to 16 months.

After years of slow, difficult and incremental progress toward housing solutions, it is exciting to see that the completion date for Phase 1 at Friendship Court is now just over the horizon.

Boosting the work is a just-announced state loan of $2 million to PHA for Phase 1. The loan is from a program administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Also receiving money — some $520,000 — was the Greater Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat has tackled some large-scale projects, such as its long-term redevelopment plan for the 100-acre Southwood Mobile Home Park in Albemarle County. This loan was for a smaller effort — building seven homes and rehabbing another between Piedmont Avenue and Montpelier Street in Charlottesville.

Affordable housing can also be advanced by smaller projects, one house, one street at a time.

The term of the loan is 15 years. If the units that it finances remain affordable for that length of time, the loan will be forgiven, says Habitat.

Like the Friendship Court redevelopment, Habitat’s project will start later this year and take about 15 months to complete.

Together, the two put Charlottesville many steps closer to reducing the affordable housing problem.

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