The University of Virginia announced Tuesday that it will aim to support and develop 1,000 to 1,500 affordable housing units in Central Virginia over the next 10 years.
The effort comes amid a series of efforts by President Jim Ryan to improve town-gown relations, such as increasing the university's minimum wage for full-time and contract employees, which took effect Jan. 1.
“As an anchor institution, we feel a responsibility to be a good neighbor. One of the most pressing needs in our region is affordable housing, and we are looking forward to doing our part to help increase the supply,” Ryan said in a news release.
The university will allow use of land owned by UVa, which has land that is non-taxable, or the UVa Foundation as part of a multi-phased approach over the next decade. Housing development partners will be selected through a competitive process, according to the university.
The foundation owns scattered parcels throughout Charlottesville and in Central Virginia; some land and buildings are rented out, while others await redevelopment.
According to a 2019 regional housing study assessment by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, 12,000 families in the region pay more than they can afford for housing, with some commuting from lower-cost areas such as Augusta and Buckingham counties. Other recent reports estimate that a family with an income of $45,000 or less a year will spend half their income on housing.
To address affordable housing needs and other areas of focus for the community, Ryan and the President’s Council on UVa-Community Partnerships have announced the formation of four working groups focused on affordable housing, the local economy, early childhood education and the employment pipeline.
The four groups, which include members of the community and UVa representatives, are tasked with addressing the key issues identified by the UVa-Community Working Group in 2019.
Last fall, Ryan asked the members of the UVa-Community Working Group, formed in 2018, to continue to serve in a more permanent capacity as the President’s Council on UVa-Community Partnerships. As the Council continues its work this year, the four individual working groups will act on the following topics:
• “Local Economy Working Group” will examine UVa’s procurement needs and how they can be matched with local businesses.
• “Pipelines and Pathways Working Group” will look for ways to grow UVa’s employment pipeline, with the goal of improving access for underrepresented groups and ensuring that current workers have opportunities for promotion and growth;
• “Early Childhood Education Working Group” will work to increase access to affordable, high-quality educational experiences for children ages 0-5, with an emphasis on training and supporting local early childhood educators;
• “Affordable Housing Advisory Group” will make recommendations related to housing goals, site selection, development strategy, and engagement with community and housing partners to support the development of 1,000 to 1,500 affordable housing units.
These priority areas are also part of the University’s 2030 strategic plan, within the Good Neighbor Program, one of the plan’s 10 key initiatives.