Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Charlottesville's affordable housing amendment is amended: Officials back off eminent domain

At the City Council meeting on November 21, right after the public hearing on the elected school board, 4 of the 5 councilors approved a city charter amendment to address the affordable housing emergency.

That morning, the Daily Progress had a promotional story on the legislative item. Only today did readers learn that the proposed amendment had actually been passed. And then, only by inference. Councilors Blake Caravati, Kendra Hamilton, David Brown, and Kevin Lynch voted for the amendment. Rob Schilling cast a vote against the amendment.

"Opposes Charlottesville's affordable housing amendment: Letter to Va. General Assembly" Jan. 5, 2006 Includes text of amendment Sec. 50.7.

Activities in the state Senate:

SB 202 Charter; City of Charlottesville. R. Creigh Deeds (all patrons)
Summary as introduced:Charter; City of Charlottesville.

Grants new powers to the city for the purpose of providing housing for low or moderate income persons or for elderly or handicapped persons.

Full text:01/10/06
Senate: Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/06


Senate amendments
1. The city shall offer private lending institutions the opportunity to participate in local loan programs established pursuant to this subsection.
2. The city shall not exercise the power of eminent domain pursuant to any power granted in this section.

Status:01/10/06 Senate:
Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/06

01/10/06 Senate:
Referred to Committee on Local Government01/17/06 Senate: Reported from Local Government with amendments (13-Y 1-N)

In the House of Delegates:

HB 998 Charter; City of Charlottesville. David J. Toscano (all patrons)
Summary as introduced:Charter; City of Charlottesville. Grants new powers to the city for the purpose of providing housing for low or moderate income persons or for elderly or handicapped persons.

Full text:01/11/06 House:
Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/06 065461525

House: Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/06 06546152501/11/06 House:
Referred to Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns

"City's home loan bill passes committee"

By Bob Gibson, Daily Progress staff writer, January 18, 2006

RICHMOND - A bill to allow Charlottesville to create loan and grant programs to help low- or moderate-income residents buy a home scraped through a Senate subcommittee Tuesday. Hours later, the bill sailed through a full committee after it was amended to ensure the city would not be taking property through eminent domain.

Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, said his measure is a charter bill requested by the city. It was amended twice in the Senate Committee on Local Government.

Deeds' Senate Bill 202 limped into the full committee on a 3-2 vote Tuesday morning from a subcommittee chaired by Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Mount Solon.

The full committee endorsed the bill on a 13-1 vote hours later after Hanger supported it and helped amend the measure. The bill is intended to give Charlottesville some powers in its city charter to deal with affordable housing problems using tools Alexandria already has.

"Some of my colleagues never want to emulate the city of Alexandria," Hanger said of some fellow Republicans who view Alexandria - and Charlottesville - as small urban hotbeds of liberalism with political atmospheres that should be neither encouraged nor enhanced.

Hanger said Charlottesville wants to try some "creative things to ameliorate the high cost of housing."
"The issues are apparent to anyone who is in the Charlottesville market," Deeds said. "It helped to have Emmett Hanger as chairman of that subcommittee because while he might not have been inclined to support it he's been to enough meetings in the city and Albemarle County that he understands the problem."

After its scrape with death in subcommittee, "the bill got stronger," Deeds said. "The amendments today frankly make the bill better by ensuring that eminent domain is not a tool that is going to be used and also by ensuring that private sector lending institutions have a chance to compete" in the city's loan programs.
Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said he would amend his identical House bill to include the strengthening amendments.

"I think the amendments clarified what the city wanted initially, which was not to have an ability to condemn property," Toscano said.

"The city needs a lot more flexibility in dealing with a problem that is not totally unique to the city but is more apparent in Charlottesville than perhaps other places," he said. "I think [the City Council is] going to try to create some more flexible loan programs and some more flexible grant programs" to assist in making owning a home more affordable.

City Councilor Blake Caravati traveled to Richmond to support the bill and said he is gratified by its approval in the Senate committee.

"I believe personally that we are approaching a crisis in affordable housing," he said. "We do not want the power of eminent domain" for these programs.

Caravati said police officers and teachers who make just more than $30,000 a year could become eligible for low-interest loans or grants if the council is granted the authority to create such programs.

Affordable housing programs could help the city recruit police and firefighters as well as teachers and others in service jobs, Caravati said.

"We need to move families out of poverty," he said. "It is intended for people with low to moderate incomes."

As bills to amend the city charter, the Deeds and Toscano measures must pass each chamber by two-thirds majorities. Neither legislator said he is certain of approval in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

The Daily Progress

"City mulls housing autonomy: Council wants affordable living programs"

By John Yellig, Daily Progress staff writer, November 21, 2005

Requiring developers to dedicate a portion of their projects to affordable housing isn't legal in Virginia, so the Charlottesville City Council is going to ask the General Assembly to amend the city charter to give it greater authority in creating its own affordable housing programs. The charter amendment would open several new avenues to the council in its attempts to make housing more affordable. The council will hold a public hearing on a resolution to seek the charter amendment at its meeting tonight.

If the General Assembly passed the amendment, for example, the council could choose to set up a fund from which it could help low-income homeowners pay their property taxes. Or it could make grants to individuals to help them pay for a home.

An affordable-housing task force last year recommended the city require developers to devote at least 15 percent of developments larger than 10 units to affordable housing or make a monetary contribution to a city housing fund.

But a circuit court judge later ruled Arlington County doesn't have the authority to enact similar guidelines, so Charlottesville's proposal was scrapped.

"Certainly council hasn't given up hope for the ? authority, but that's not on the table at the moment," Deputy City Attorney Lisa Robertson Kelley said. "This charter amendment would allow the city to undertake certain things itself to promote affordable housing."

The amendment would allow the council to set up a housing fund, but it could not make contributions to it mandatory.

Developers seeking zoning changes could offer to contribute to the fund in exchange for concessions. Currently they must give to non-governmental organizations such as the Piedmont Housing Alliance.
"It just gives us another way to help negotiate," Councilor Blake Caravati said.

While the amendment, if passed, wouldn't give the council all the tools it wants, something is better than nothing to Caravati.

"We've been talking about this a long time," he said, referring to the dearth of affordable housing in the city. "It's a huge problem for us. It's going to be an even worse problem if the real-estate boom keeps going on."

TheDaily Progress

Other stories on local politics:

"Following an emotional exchange Monday night, the Charlottesville City Council closed the door on the possibility of ward-based School Board elections in May."
"Council conflict decides election" Nov. 22, 2005

"At Thursday's work session at City Hall, a packed house listened as councilors discussed how to proceed with the project, which has been in the works for four years."
"Jefferson School joins Va. register" Dec. 8, 2005

"Caravati nixes re-election bid: Norris, Taliaferro plan to run" Jan. 10, 2006

"Julian Taliaferro, who recently retired as city fire chief after 33 years, will soon join Norris on the campaign trail. Taliaferro, who will seek to join Norris on the Democratic ticket, said he would formally announce his campaign soon. The Democratic Party convention is set for March 5."
"Norris runs for council" Jan. 12, 2006


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