FAQs

Has Friendship Court been sold?

o   No.  Friendship Court has not been sold. It has not changed ownership since 2002, when the original owner sold it to the Piedmont Housing Alliance and NHT-Enterprise Preservation Corporation (NHT-Enterprise).

o   Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise formed a partnership in 2002 to buy Friendship Court.  There are three partners – Piedmont Housing, NHT-Enterprise and an investment fund sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners.

o   Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise are both  committed first and most importantly, to providing homes for 150 families that live at Friendship Court now and to keeping the Section 8 rental assistance that makes the housing there affordable.

Who are Piedmont Housing Alliance and NHT-Enterprise?  Who is in the investment fund?

o   Piedmont Housing is a Charlottesville not-for-profit whose mission is to create housing opportunities and build community in Charlottesville and central Virginia. Piedmont Housing is a minority partner in the partnership that owns Friendship Court. Piedmont Housing is committed first and most importantly, to providing homes for 150 families that live at Friendship Court now and to keeping the Section 8 rental assistance that makes the housing there affordable.

o   NHT-Enterprise is a joint effort of the National Housing Trust, a not-for-profit affordable housing advocate based in Washington, DC, and Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a real estate investment services company focused on affordable housing.. NHT-Enterprise’s mission is to preserve and improve affordable housing for low-income persons and families.  Since 1999, NHT-Enterprise has preserved over 5,500 homes in ten states and the District of Columbia.    NHT-Enterprise currently controls the partnership that owns Friendship Court and is committed to the preservation of Section 8 rental assistance at Friendship Court.

o   The investment fund is a group of investors who came together to with Enterprise Community Partners to invest in one or more affordable housing projects.  In exchange for their investment, they received tax credits and other tax benefits over fifteen years.  They invested about $4.5 million in Friendship Court in 2002.  Those funds helped to pay for the renovation of the property in 2002 and 2003. The investment fund is what is called a passive investor.  They are in the deal for the tax credits and other economic benefits. They do not have any say in the day-to-day business of Friendship Court.

So what’s going on?

o   Since the partnership was formed in 2002, NHT-Enterprise has served as managing general partner and is responsible for asset management, property compliance, and oversight over property management.  Piedmont Housing has served as a minority partner with ongoing oversight over resident services.

o   In November 2018, that changes.

§  In November, 2018, Piedmont Housing will gain control of the partnership, and

§  Shortly thereafter, Piedmont Housing will have the option to purchase Friendship Court.

o   After Piedmont acquires the project, Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise have agreed to continue their joint venture. Piedmont Housing brings extensive development experience and a strong Charlottesville presence to redevelopment, while NHT-Enterprise brings considerable expertise in Section 8 and affordable housing preservation from projects across the country.

o   We have begun planning for the redevelopment of Friendship Court after 2018 which includes the preservation of 150 units of Section 8 housing.

People are scared of redevelopment.

 o   They are, and history gives them reason to be.  The history of redevelopment in Charlottesville and across the country is not a good one.

 o   The history of the redevelopment of Vinegar Hill is still fresh in people’s minds, even all these years later. With Vinegar Hill, a community saw an African American neighborhood cleared, with families and businesses displaced, all with little thought to what came next.

 o   Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise are committed first and most importantly, to providing homes for 150 families that live at Friendship Court now and to keeping the Section 8 rental assistance that makes the housing there affordable.

 o   Piedmont Housing is committed to placing residents at the center of the planning for the future of their own community and to translating their hopes and desires into design.

 What about the Section 8?

o   Friendship Court (then called Garrett Square) was built in 1978.  The original owner was able to build the project because they had a contract for project-based Section 8 rental assistance.

o   That Section 8 contract had an initial term of five years, and provided for seven (7) five-year renewals, for a total of forty (40) years.

o   That contract has been renewed seven times and is still in place.  It expires in July 2018.

o   Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise will do everything we can to renew the Section 8 contract for all 150 units.  We understand that the Section 8 rental assistance is what makes Friendship Court affordable for the families that live there.

o   While new Section 8 contracts are very hard to find, HUD generally is renewing existing Section 8 contracts.

o   We fully expect that HUD will renew the Section 8 rental assistance for Friendship Court, but renewal is up to HUD.  Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise will do everything we can to renew the Section 8 contract for all 150 units.

We understand that no one will be displaced during redevelopment.  How do we know that we won’t be displaced after redevelopment is complete?

That is a good question.

The answer is in at least three layers of protection for Section 8 residents.

o  The first layer of protection is that Piedmont Housing and NHT/E are both not-for-profit organizations whose mission is to create and preserve affordable housing.  That’s why we bought Friendship Court in 2002 when there was a real possibility that it could be converted to market rate housing.  Keeping the Section 8 units and the other affordable and workforce units affordable over the long term is our mission.  It is who we are and what we do.

o  The second layer of protection is in the Section 8 contract itself.  When we renew the Section 8 contract in 2018, we will request from HUD the contract with the longest available term.  Again, our mission is to preserve affordable housing. A longer Section 8 contract helps us to do just that.  The Section 8 contract itself is a legally binding agreement that includes protections for current residents.  That contract is enforceable by HUD and has the backing of the federal government.

o  The third layer of protection is in the financing for redevelopment, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (or LIHTC) program.  That program requires that the affordable units remain affordable for an initial period of fifteen years.  At the new Friendship Court this will include all of the Section 8 units and the new affordable units. The Commonwealth of Virginia, which actually gives us the LIHTC financing, will require that the units remain affordable for an additional fifteen years, for a total of thirty years.  That too is a legally binding agreement.

What do you see in the future for Friendship Court?

o   Through this process of community engagement, residents will tell us what they want and need.

o   Going into the process, we think the future for Friendship Court is in mixed-income residential development with a variety of housing choices developed, including housing affordable to the 150 families that live here now, workforce housing and some market-rate housing.

o   We also see some non-residential uses there. Some ideas so far include a sliding-scale health center in partnership with Central Virginia Health Services and an Early Childhood Learning Center with affordable day care and a pre-K program for our kids and adult learning opportunities in the evenings.

o   We hope to see much more and better community space – indoors and out – for programs, activities and social interaction.

o   And we will always have a place for Farmer Todd of UACC and his community gardens.  Todd does great work and we are committed to having gardens at Friendship Court for a long time.  (We might even be able to develop rooftop gardens.)

 What about jobs?

 o   Piedmont Housing is serious about creating economic opportunities for the residents of Friendship Court, and that means jobs.

o   We are working with a local contractor to create a job-training program based on a program developed in Seattle, where public housing residents received training and then were hired to work on the redevelopment of public housing.

o   Our goal is to give Friendship Court residents training in skilled trades – carpentry, masonry, plumbing and the like – and jobs in construction on the site.

o   We are working to secure foundation funding that will allow us to hire Friendship Court teenagers to work on community engagement.

o   We think that it is important that Friendship Court residents benefit directly from planning and construction work to come.

o   We will work with the City’s successful GO programs to bring job training to Friendship Court.

So you have already decided what should be built at Friendship Court.

o   No, we haven’t.  There is no plan right now for redevelopment.  We need your help to make a plan with real and substantial input from residents.

o   There is no plan, though we are not without our own thoughts about what might be done at Friendship Court and have put a lot of work into cultivating opportunities.

§  Most importantly, we have to keep the Friendship Court community intact and keep the project affordable for the families that live there now.

§  Friendship Court is a very valuable piece of real estate.  Our goal is to unlock the value of that site for the benefit of the people that live there now.  Mixed income and mixed-use development will allow us to do just that.

§  We know that whatever happens at Friendship Court, it has to be both environmentally and economically sustainable over the long run.

§  We have great faith in the power and the wisdom of the residents of Friendship Court to plan for their own future.

  Why redevelop it at all?  Why not just leave it as it is?

 o   In 2018, Friendship Court will be 40 years old.

o   Other than the limited work done in 2003, Friendship Court has never undergone a major renovation.

o   Redevelopment is an opportunity to build much better housing for the families that live there now.

o   There is a great community at Friendship Court, but the buildings are antiquated and the current site plan does not work well.

§  The current site plan leaves Friendship Court isolated and disconnected from Belmont and the rest of downtown.

§  Both Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise believe a redeveloped Friendship Court will create a healthier and safer environment for the families and kids that live there.

§  We have an opportunity to turn outdated buildings into something great.

§  In 1978, when Friendship Court was built, we knew little about sustainable design.  Today, we wouldn’t think of building any other way.  We also know a lot more about designing healthy spaces, spaces that promote better health for both adults and kids.

§  Nothing stays the same forever.  We have an opportunity to change the face of Charlottesville and to do it the right way, with residents driving the process.

o   Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise are committed first and most importantly, to providing homes for 150 families that live at Friendship Court now and to keeping the Section 8 rental assistance that makes the housing there affordable.

You should work with ________________ (CRHA, City of Promise, Ridge Street neighbors, Ludwig Kuttner, etc…).

o   We always want to be good neighbors.

o   We have to be careful to stay focused on the job in front of us. Redeveloping Friendship Court is a very big job and we have to do it right.

o   We hope that our work at Friendship Court can be a model for others in Charlottesville and across the country in how residents can create the future for their own communities.

o   We are starting with the residents at the center of the process, and will build the circle out in time.

I am a resident.  How can I participate in the planning for Friendship Court?

o   Residents will be at the center of the planning process, with formal and informal opportunities to participate.

o   Piedmont Housing has formed an Advisory Committee to help us plan for the future of Friendship Court, with residents comprising one-half (50%) of the committee.

o   The residents of Friendship Court have elected seven (7) representatives to the Advisory Committee.

o   We hope to engage teens (and pay them) to be a part of the planning for the public spaces and nonresidential development on the site.

o   Our team of designers hope to meet with residents informally to learn more about what works at Friendship Court and what doesn’t and to get your ideas about what Friendship Court could be.

o   Piedmont Housing and NHT-Enterprise are committed first and most importantly, to providing homes for 150 families that live at Friendship Court now and to keeping the Section 8 rental assistance that makes the housing there affordable.

If you have questions or suggestions about the future of Friendship Court, you can contact Claudette Grant at Piedmont Housing at (434) 295-9794 or stop by to see her at the Community Center at Friendship Court.