Affordable housing is a goal across America but remains a work in progress.
A trio of community organizations will gather Sunday at 3 p.m. in Waynesboro to hold an affordable housing vigil at the Embrace Community Center on Fir Street. Those groups participating include Virginia Organizing, the Embrace Community Center and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waynesboro.
The local vigil is simultaneous with similar observances across Virginia organized by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. According to that organization, the solutions include building more affordable housing units, investing in Virginia’s housing stability fund and increasing Virginia’s eviction reduction fund.
Aline Jackson-Diggs of Waynesboro has a unique perspective as a homeowner, realtor and businesswoman. She said the migration of home buyers and renters from Charlottesville to Waynesboro has resulted in higher home prices and rentals.
People are also reading…
She said the city of Waynesboro has become a “seller’s market.” But the result is that even rents are higher. “If you can’t buy a home, you have to rent,” said Jackson-Diggs, who also is involved with the Waynesboro chapter of Virginia Organizing.
Andrea Jackson, a member of the Waynesboro chapter of Virginia Organizing, said a state investment of $75 million in Virginia’s housing trust fund would save developers costs. “The housing trust fund helps developers,” she said, noting that many of the new units being built across the city are starting at $200,000 and going higher, to $250,000 and close to $300,000.
Jackson-Diggs said other steps would enable more home purchases in Waynesboro. “One thing I would like to see in new developments is to have one or two homes that are affordable,” she said.
Zoning for tiny homes of 800 square feet or less would also give first-time buyers a break. According to Jackson-Diggs, those homes could be sold with all the amenities and utilities for about $100,000.
And with rental properties, it is not just affordability; Jackson said making the city’s rental properties safer and cleaner is vital. Regular city inspections of rental properties would accomplish that.
“The rental prices are going up, but the standard is not,” Jackson said.
Those hardest hit by expensive housing are low-income workers. According to a fact sheet provided by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, 71 percent of very low-income Virginians spend more than half of their income on housing.
Jackson, a disabled veteran, said she lived with her parents in Waynesboro during the height of the pandemic. More recently, she moved to Staunton to find housing she could afford.
“People have to make hard decisions, particularly those who live and work here and are in the service industry,” Jackson said.
Jackson-Diggs said all of the problems of housing might not be solved. But she said it is essential to seek “a happy medium” to ensure housing costs are not prohibitive.