Stoney to pitch Richmond City Council on dedicated revenue for affordable housing, release new housing plan

To meet growing needs, Mayor Levar Stoney said Tuesday that he will pitch the City Council on dedicating millions more annually to Richmond’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

If approved, his proposal would lockbox new tax revenue from properties with expiring real estate tax abatements. The mechanism would generate $2 million to start, and rise to a projected $10 million annually by 2025, Stoney said.

The infusion would bolster the city fund that supports housing projects with units reserved for families making less than the region’s median income of about $86,000 for a family of four.

“This is new revenue, not taken from any other priority, without creating a new tax,” Stoney said.

As more properties with abatements roll back onto the tax rolls, the annual disbursement to the trust fund would grow, said Sharon Ebert, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for planning, community and economic development. The administration will not propose a cap to it, Ebert said.

“There’s always going to be a demand for affordable housing,” she said. “It’s a need that never gets met, unfortunately.”

Since taking office, Stoney has proposed tripling the trust fund’s annual funding, which the council approved. The nine-member body that controls the city’s purse strings backed a $2.9 million allocation to it in this year’s budget.

If the dedicated funding stream wins support from the council, it would deliver a windfall that housing advocates have said is crucial to promote the construction of more affordable units at the rate the region needs to.

A Partnership for Housing Affordability analysis released earlier this year said the region’s four biggest localities must facilitate the construction of 1,000 units annually to meet the projected need by 2040.

“It’s been a goal of affordable housing advocates for over a decade,” said Greta Harris, president and CEO of the Better Housing Coalition, a nonprofit that develops and manages housing for the working poor.

Harris sat on a task force of nonprofit leaders, developers and others who advised the Stoney administration on matters of housing during his tenure.

“We have such a shortage of quality housing at an affordable price that we need more fuel to help advance strategies to preserve and develop more of this housing stock for our more modest income neighbors,” she said.

The dedicated funding proposal scored endorsements from two of the council’s most tenured members, according to a city news release: council President and 7th District representative Cynthia Newbille and 6th District representative Ellen Robertson. The councilwomen will co-patron the ordinance with Stoney, the release stated.

The dedicated funding source is integral to a new housing plan Stoney said his administration will present to the council next week. It sets a goal of generating the construction of 10,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.

By comparison, Stoney said about 2,000 affordable units will be newly built in the city by the time his four-year term ends, surpassing a goal he set upon taking office of 1,500 such new units opening by 2023.

“My administration stands ready to collaborate with housing advocates and community stakeholders to turn that vision into a reality,” Stoney said.

The full plan will prescribe new ways to address the city’s varying housing needs, with initiatives aimed at better serving residents who are homeless, those living in mobile homes or the city’s public housing communities, those seeking a path to homeownership while earning less than the median income, and longtime residents whose taxes are rising amid gentrification.

Among the initiatives it will recommend are a new “anti-displacement” grant program targeted to longtime residents, a rental assistance program that would require participants to partake in a city workforce development program, and a new program to sell city-owned property to nonprofits for a “nominal” price for the sake of affordable housing construction, Stoney said.

It will also address replacing the city’s hypothermia shelter, which operates in the winter months and serves the homeless, with new satellite locations around the city, he said.

The full plan will be released Monday; the council meets virtually that day at 6 p.m.