Tag Archives: Friendship Court

A Glimpse at Friendship Court’s Future from the Outside

With the primary funding (Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)) application for the Friendship Court redevelopment completed in March, Piedmont Housing Alliance and the Friendship Court Resident Advisory Committee have been turning their attention to what the housing will actually look like.

Friendship Court Phase 1 will consist of three buildings that will be constructed on the existing open space at the community. The buildings will be broken out as detailed below.

Buildings 1 & 2

  • Will contain a total of 35 stacked, 2-over-2 townhomes and stacked flats.
  • Will include 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom units, each with a individual front and back doors to the outside.
  • Building 1 will also contain a secured bike parking space and the maintenance offices for the entire property.
  • Parking will be on dedicated surface parking spots near the back doors.

Building 2, North view. Rendering provided by Grimm + Parker Architects.

Building 3

  • Will contain 71 apartment units.
  • Parking will be in a covered parking garage beneath the building.
  • Will contain 9,000 square feet of amenity and office space.
  • Apartments will be single story units, arranged along central corridors on four floors served by 2 elevators.
  • Will include 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom units.
  • Building amenities will include a resident library/lounge, multipurpose room, game room, fitness center, business center, bike storage, conference room, and the leasing offices for the entire property. Residents of this building will also have access to a semi-private, landscaped courtyard.

Courtyard view of building 3. Rendering provided by Grimm + Parker Architects.

Part of the Community

Early in the redevelopment process, the Advisory Committee agreed that Friendship Court in its present form feels isolated and blocked off from the rest of the community. As a result, overall design goals for the redevelopment aim to create a natural transition zone the single-family homes and low rise apartments in the Belmont neighborhood over to the community’s mid-rise neighbors along 2nd St SE.

The primary siding material found in the Belmont neighborhood is horizontal lap siding and the primary siding material found along 2nd St SE is brick.  Therefore, all three buildings in Phase 1 will use brick and fiber cement lap siding in an effort to mesh will with the buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods.  Additionally, both products are extremely durable and low maintenance which means the new buildings will look great for years to come.

Materials and Design for Buildings 1 and 2

  • Individual units will be sided with one of two brick colors and one of three lap siding colors.  A few corner locations will be highlighted by a third material, fiber cement panel siding.
  • Each unit will have a pitched roof and a private or semi-private covered front entry stoop.

Materials and Design for Building 3

  • Building 3 will use the same materials as buildings 1 & 2, but one or two of the color selections will be altered.
  • Large sections of glazing and a pronounced entrance canopy at the first floor will help to activate Garrett St and orient visitors to the Community Room and Leasing Office.

Material colors seen in the renderings featured in this post are still tentative, as final color selections have not yet been made.

Liz Chapman, a Senior Associate at Grimm + Parker, contributed to this blog post.

The Next Steps in Friendship Court Redevelopment

The next major milestone for Piedmont Housing Alliance and the continuing progress towards Friendship Court redevelopment is submitting the application for the highly competitive Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.

The U.S. Treasury Department sponsors the LIHTC program and it is administered at the state level by the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).  The program helps fund the development of affordable rental housing across the country by providing federal income tax credits that can be sold to corporations with large tax burdens.  The sale proceeds then directly subsidize construction costs, ensuring long-term affordability.

The LIHTC program application is due March 14.  The full 2019 application schedule is available to view. According to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the LIHTC program “gives State and local LIHTC-allocating agencies the equivalent of nearly $8 billion in annual budget authority to issue tax credits for the acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of rental housing targeted to lower-income households.”

Recognizing the importance and competitiveness of this funding, we have pulled together a well-seasoned and insightful team of consultants to help craft the lengthy application, including representatives from Klein Hornig, Virginia Commonwealth Development Corp., Joseph Browne Development Associates, and our partner NHT Communities

Why is this so important for the redevelopment of Friendship Court?  The LIHTC funding is the critical funding that tips the scale.  As part of the LIHTC application, the resident-elected Advisory Committee and Piedmont Housing had to make a series of important final decisions for Phase 1 including finalizing the number of new apartment-style and townhome-style homes, the interior layout of the apartments, materials to be used on the exterior of the buildings, etc.

The LIHTC funding submission is just one update that you will hear from us this year.  Looking ahead, we also have plans to install a new temporary “Tiny Office” to provide a new Economic Opportunity Coordinator a space to begin work with the residents at Friendship Court.

Currently, Piedmont Housing Alliance does not manage Friendship Court, but that is scheduled to change in May. We are working closely with current property manager, Edgewood Management, on the transition.  Stay tuned for more information on the coming change.

Follow the Drum

If you visit the Friendship Court Community Center on Thursdays, you may be greeted by the sound of drumming and joyous laughter and chatter.

Saman Dashti, also known as Macaco Nova York, makes it a point to volunteer at Friendship Court once a week in some capacity, not an easy commitment because he travels regularly and is also a Capoeira enthusiast and instructor. Dashti discovered the Friendship Court community when he first moved to Charlottesville with his wife. “I moved here and figured out what was going on and came here [to volunteer],” he said.

Dashti said he was surprised back then that there were not more groups and individuals volunteering their time and talents at Friendship Court, but said that he thinks that with the redevelopment others will want to come to the community.

Naylia was one attendee, of about seven participants, at a recent session and said she comes every week that Dashti is present because it is fun. When asked what kind of music she likes she said hip hop and “the music we make.”

Naylia enjoys working with Saman.
Naylia enjoys working with Saman.

Dashti’s program consist of drumming, education on beats and rhythms and movement. On this particular day, he mentioned that Ms. Sheri, Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Community Outreach Assistant (and resident member of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee), will be making new shields used in a dance with the youth.

Dashti recognizes the importance of afrocentric programs in predominately black communities and touts them as motivation for kids living there. While emphasis is often put on athletic and STEM programs, he is furthering the arts as a means to an end to introduce kids to themselves and the music they can make themselves.

After drumming, kids and their families can enjoy warm meals provided for the community on Tuesdays and Thursdays by Piedmont Housing Alliance, catered by JBD Mobile Catering. Friendship Court residents can learn more about this and other programs by contacting Claudette Grant at 434-422-4846.

Saman and his wife teach youth how to make beats and music.

A Look Back at 2018 with the Friendship Court Advisory Committee

The Friendship Court redevelopment plan made tremendous progress in 2018. The year was focused on reflection and collaboration with an eye toward the future by working with the resident-led Friendship Court Advisory Committee to further the redevelopment plan and hear from all residents.

Community Engagement

We kicked off 2018 with our Courtyard Conversations series with Friendship Court residents. During these conversations, the Advisory Committee, sought feedback and input from residents on a revised site plan framework so that the architects and engineers could start drawings for Phase 1 of the redevelopment. The series kicked off in mid-February with a community dinner and then five smaller sessions were held for residents to attend in February and March. After the community gatherings, Claudette, with the help of others, went door to door to solicit as much additional input as possible.

Refining the Redevelopment Plan

The commitment to a redevelopment plan with zero displacement of residents continued in 2018 and in early June we finalized the site plan framework that addressed significant community concerns from the 2016 preliminary master plan, including reducing the number of phases, moving the early childhood center to Phase 1, and including townhomes as well as multifamily apartment-style buildings. The revised plan aims to have all Friendship Court families in their new homes within seven years.

In September, we submitted the Phase 1 Site Plan to the City for review and approval in preparation for applying for Low Income Housing Tax Credits in March 2019. The goal is for the site plan to be approved in February.

Other 2018 milestones include:

  • JulySection 8 renewal approved. In July we received notification that the new 20-year, Section 8 contract for Friendship Court was awarded. The Project-Based Section 8 operating subsidy received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) bridges the gap between the operating costs of the property and the available rental income.
  • AugustAdvisory Committee selected Harkins Builders as General Contractor. The Advisory Committee chose Harkins Builders as the general contractor for pre-construction services for Phase One of the redevelopment. The process, which lasted throughout the summer of 2018, began with Piedmont Housing Alliance publishing a Request for Proposal (RFP), inviting qualified general contractors to apply. Piedmont Housing staff and the Friendship Court Advisory Committee reviewed proposals and conducted interviews with each builder interested in the work. Each firm went before the Advisory Committee and gave a presentation on their experience and a narrative on how they would approach the Friendship Court redevelopment.
  • OctoberPlans for maintaining green space during development revealed. The Advisory Committee worked with architects Grimm + Parker and engineer Timmons Group to balance the need for high-quality outdoor spaces with a limited land area.
  • NovemberPiedmont Housing recognized with Virginia Housing Award.  Recognized for its leadership in resident-led planning and design, Piedmont Housing Alliance was awarded a 2018 Virginia Housing Inclusive Communities Award for its work at Friendship Court at the annual Virginia Governors Housing Conference.

Looking ahead

In 2019, we look forward to finalizing floor plans, finalizing the building exterior architecture, and detailing the final components of Phase 1, including outdoor play and amenity spaces for the community. Further, we will apply for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) by the March deadline with the goal of beginning construction in early 2020.

Girls at Friendship Court Enjoy Creative Writing Program This Summer

Sonia MontalvoEach Thursday, several girls from the Friendship Court community come together for a creative writing program taught by Sonia Montalvo. Sonia, program staff at the Boys and Girls Club says, “I want to help the girls think differently about things through the creative writing process. Kids are so imaginative, if you can just give them the platform and space, it’s amazing what they can come up with!”

Girls are Alwrite

Sonia has led the girls in “The Girls are Alwrite” reading and writing program, working on activities to help their imaginations flourish.  They started with the idea of how to find beauty in themselves by finding the beauty in stories.  Sonia says, “Sometimes African American girls feel ostracized which makes it hard for them to find their voice.”  During their sessions together, Sonia plans some physical activity which she says helps the girls connect and get their creative juices flowing.

By the end of the seven sessions, the girls will have written one, possibly two stories that they will share with each other.  When they go back to school, Sonia hopes the girls will be able to draw on their experience and be more creative in their schoolwork. 

Sonia and kids

Sonia has help with her newly-formed business from her sister, Tracie Jamison, who acts as treasurer. With a recent grant from Equity Institute in the amount of $3,700, Sonia’s business is officially incorporated and she is working on becoming a 501(c)(3). Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Shelley Murphy connected Sonia to Friendship Court after meeting her through the Dream Builders Academy Business Development Class. During Sonia’s pitch on culmination night, Shelley offered to sponsor five girls from Friendship Court in her workshop and after meeting and discussing the idea with Community Organizer, Claudette Grant, they decided it would be a great fit!

Girls are AlwriteSonia says, “One of my long term goals is to incorporate my program into the local school systems, prominently into those with large African American and Latino populations. I’m working on getting my teaching certificate so that I might be able to do that.”

She added that she has had fun connecting so far with the girls and she says those connections seem to help the girls be more creative. Sonia says, “Creative writing can take a girl’s soul far!”

If you would like to learn more about Sonia’s workshops or The Girls Are Alwrite, feel free to contact her via email at sonia.montalvo11@gmail.com or by phone at 434-981-9998.

Housing Typologies

Housing types montage

When the preliminary Master Plan for the redevelopment of Friendship Court was introduced in late 2016, it proposed replacing the existing townhome-style buildings entirely with apartment-style multi-family buildings.  The intent at the time was to quadruple the number of apartments, from 150 to 600.  Apartment-style buildings were the only way to achieve this number of apartments.

The community as a whole, both from inside and outside of Friendship Court, expressed consistent concerns on multiple aspects of the preliminary Master Plan.  Specifically, pursuing solely apartment-style buildings, and the resulting total number of apartments overall, were raised as primary concerns.  These, and other issues, prompted the need to refine the redevelopment plan in order to properly reflect resident goals.

Currently, nearly all apartments at Friendship Court are two-story townhomes with front doors leading directly outside to sidewalks and/or green spaces.  Many residents, particularly families with young children, have expressed a strong desire to maintain the immediacy of their connection to the outdoors.  For these families, having direct access to the outside is both a lifestyle preference as well as providing a sense of safety and watchful eyes on their children at play.

On the other hand, there are many other residents who are excited at the prospect of an apartment-style building.  Many residents have expressed interest in the amenities provided in multi-family buildings, such as workout rooms, computer labs, and meeting rooms.  Further, for elderly residents, or for those with mobility impairments, the prospect of elevator access and single-level floor plans is deeply welcomed and tremendously beneficial.

The bottom line is that residents want choices that match their desires and needs.  As we finalize the refinement of the site plan, residents on the Advisory Committee have discovered the necessity of balancing multiple, sometimes competing, priorities:  creating ample green spaces, adding new affordable units, providing both townhome and apartment housing types, the need for sufficient parking, the cost of construction, etc.

The resulting updated plan does a remarkable job at establishing this balance, providing as much choice in housing types as possible while creating a neighborhood framework that retains desired characteristics and re-knits the community to the surrounding city.

 

Section 8 Renewal Approved!

Friendship Court with playground

For the last 40 years, Friendship Court has been a home for extremely low-income families due to an ongoing financial operating subsidy, federal Project-Based Section 8 rental assistance.

Just over a week ago, we received notification that a new 20-year Section 8 contract for Friendship Court was awarded!  Nearly two years ago, knowing the original Section 8 contract expired this year, we began planning for this new contract.  We are deeply excited that families at Friendship Court have certainty their housing is secure for many years to come.

Why is this important?

The Section 8 contract is important for two reasons.  First, planning a balanced operating budget is critical to long-term financial sustainability for the property.  Second, providing homes for extremely low-income families with rents they can afford requires operational subsidy.  This post will take a look at how Section 8 rental assistance helps balance operating expenses with income sources.

Operating expenses

Operating expenses include debt payments, onsite staff salaries, saving for long-term replacement reserves, and many other costs.  With the exception of debt payments, which can be controlled through subsidizing construction costs, operating expenses generally stay the same no matter how deeply affordable a community is.  In other words, operating expenses stay steady, regardless of how much rent residents pay.

Income source

On the other side of the scale is the primary income source—rental income paid by the families who live in the community.  Because families pay no more than a federally-mandated 30% of their income towards rent when living in subsidized affordable housing, the total amount of rental income to the property depends on the depth of affordability in the community.  In other words, rental income to the property can change dramatically based on the income of residents.

How this works

Generally speaking, with deep construction subsidies keeping debt payments low, operating expenses and rental income can be balanced when the average family in a property has an income of ~50% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

In Charlottesville, if a family of three has a 50% AMI income, they make ~$38,400/year.  As they would pay no more than 30% of their income towards housing, after accounting for utility costs, their monthly rent would be ~$750/month.

At Friendship court, the average family has an income of ~$11,000/year, which is ~15% AMI.  This income translates to an allowable rent close to ~$150/month.  This reduced rental income creates an operating deficit of ~$600/month per apartment.  The resulting rental income to the property is not nearly enough to balance the property’s operating expenses.

Section 8 operating subsidy

The Project-Based Section 8 operating subsidy received from HUD bridges the gap between the operating costs of the property and the available rental income. The renewed 20-year Section 8 contract guarantees affordable rents to the families who call Friendship Court home!

Financing the Friendship Court Redevelopment

Friendship Court montage

Pulling together the financing for affordable rental housing in general is a deeply complex endeavor.  It is not uncommon for a high-quality, mission-focused affordable rental housing development to layer 10-15 sources of funding.  The redevelopment of Friendship Court will be no different.  In fact, it will be more complex than most, given the broad set of resident-driven goals for redevelopment, including creating housing with multiple tiers of affordability and the phasing of development that prevents displacement of existing resident families.

With few exceptions, all rental housing developments have some debt once completed.  The rental revenue from a property covers those debt payments – as well as all other necessary operating costs such as staff, utility bills, building repair reserves, etc.  By definition, affordable housing communities have reduced rental revenue. However, operating costs don’t generally shrink, so the primary method for reducing operating costs to align with the available rental revenue is to decrease the debt burden.  The only way to decrease debt is to introduce front-end subsidies into the development financing.

The backbone subsidy for affordable rental community development nation-wide is Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC).  Effectively, LIHTC financing can account for as much as 40-50% of development costs.  However, LIHTC is a limited federal program, administered by individual states, and is highly competitive.

The redevelopment of Friendship Court absolutely depends on successfully winning LIHTC financing – and all the work of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee over the last year has been focused on achieving resident aspirations and winning LIHTC funding.  However, LIHTC alone is insufficient to “make the numbers work” given the depth of affordability we aim to achieve – we will need those other layered sources, too.

For two reasons, the second most crucial subsidy is local.  First, local financial support provides a meaningful layer of funding.  Second, and perhaps as importantly, we are much more competitive in the LIHTC financing competition with substantial, committed financial support from the municipality.  Fortunately, we live in a city with a strong financial commitment to affordable housing as shown by the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund (CAHF). The CAHF was wisely established more than ten years ago to support affordable housing in our community.

To successfully redevelop Friendship Court, we must close the remaining development financing gap depending largely on support from local, regional, and national foundations as well as private philanthropy.

Successfully financing a high-quality, deeply affordable rental housing community is challenging and resource-intensive. The decisively positive results, however, particularly for the families whose lives will be impacted over the ensuing decades, are unequivocal and critically necessary to address the dire need for housing affordable for low-income families in Charlottesville.

Community Gathering Held at Friendship Court

full tent On Friday, June 8, Friendship Court residents gathered for a summer Community Gathering. Residents of Friendship Court along with Piedmont Housing Alliance staff and board members enjoyed spending time together with surrounding neighbors. Kids played, got their faces painted, and enjoyed music, participated in raffles, and ate some food off the grill. “Though the weather was a little unpredictable at the start, those that came out for the event seemed to have a great time,” said Executive Director Sunshine Mathon.

Sunshine and gang

Residents got to learn more about the feedback from Piedmont Housing Alliance’s recent resident survey efforts on different areas including housing types, open spaces, and early childhood education.  They are very grateful for the residents’ participation which is helping shape the plans for the redevelopment of Friendship Court and its future.

Facepainted attendeeDenise from PVCCDenise McClanahan, outreach manager at PVCC, was available to speak with about upcoming classes and programs as well as the Office of Human Rights with the City of Charlottesville who was offering information about upcoming events they are offering. Dinner was provided by Mel’s and Afghan Kabob. Thanks to all the other partners who helped make this possible, including Expressions Face Painting, Coria RVA was once again our DJ, the Party Starts Here, and Virginia Tent Rental.

Project Manager Beth Kennan said, “The Community Gatherings are a great way to get know the residents, and they are fun too! We are so grateful to our partners, both businesses and individuals that work as a team to make the Community Gatherings happen. We look forward to having one again in the Fall.”

DJ

Facepainted kids

Piedmont Housing Alliance sponsors community gatherings and events several times each year, in addition to ongoing programs and activities at the community center. Piedmont Housing is grateful to our residents, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, and the Youth Leadership Team for ongoing guidance and support in preparing for these gatherings. To stay connected to happenings in the community, sign up for e-news here, see the monthly newsletters here and follow us on Facebook.

Happy Summer!

 

Friendship Court Advisory Committee Accomplishments To Date

Over the last two years, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee has provided crucial advocacy for the Friendship Court community through its thoughtful guidance and a clear conviction of purpose – the redevelopment of Friendship Court must unequivocally keep the aspirations and needs of the residents as its core focus.

The Advisory Committee is a team of nine Friendship Court residents elected by their neighbors and six members of the at-large Charlottesville community. They have met at least monthly over the past two years, sometimes twice a month during heavy work times.

Grimm+ Parker charette

In addition to engaging with fellow residents to gather insight and share information about the progress of redevelopment planning, the Advisory Committee members have been co-designing the redevelopment in partnership with other members of the design team, Grimm + Parker Architects, Timmons Group civil engineers, and Piedmont Housing Alliance staff. Part of this work is experiential, including design “charrettes” (charrettes are facilitated design brainstorm exercises) and educational trips to established mixed-income communities and successful early childhood education centers in other cities.

bus tour inside

The work the Advisory Committee has accomplished to date is extraordinary. Their commitment and vision have been, and will continue to be, vital to the success of redevelopment. We are deeply grateful for their time and devotion.