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26th Street a jewel of the Affordable Housing Tour

March 30, 2009 6:25 am by

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The Better Housing Coalition houses on the 1000 block of 26th Street were the architectural jewels of the Affordable Housing Week Kick Off Bus Tour.

The Affordable Housing Week Kick Off Bus Tour was intended as a behind-the-scenes look at what Richmond’s housing non-profit organizations are doing to make our region an affordable place to live. Affordable Housing Awareness Week is the effort of 14 non-profit housing organizations to educate area residents about the challenge of providing affordable housing and to also provide opportunities for individuals and organizations to help meet the challenge. Learn more about Affordable Housing Awareness Week at AffordableHousingRichmond.com.

The Affordable Housing Week Kick Off Bus Tour had two two-hour tours, a North of the River tour and a South of the River tour. The North of the River tour wound through Church Hill and over into Highland Park before jumping to Dinwiddie Avenue in Southside, and showcased housing solutions by Better Housing Coalition, Boaz&Ruth, ElderHomes, Habitat for Humanity, and Southside Community Development & Housing. There were perhaps 100 people across the 6 busses, including Director of Community Development Rachel Flynn and City Council 2nd District representative Charles Samuels.

The tour was a great intro into what kind of work is being done across the city to provide affordable housing. There was a distinct lack of numbers on what constitutes affordable housing, how a lack of affordable housing might impact the area, what kind of affordable housing stock the region has, what the projected need might be, etc.

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Church Hill Central – Neighborhoods in Bloom

We loaded onto the busses at Main Street Station. On the way up the hill, our tour guide, Ford Webber, gave an introduction to the city’s Neighborhoods in Bloom program. Targeting a high percentage of city’s neighborhood development resources into a few specific areas, NiB has a had high impact and has been proven to have raised property values in both the targeted neighborhoods and surrounding neighborhoods.

With a heavy investment in the “Church Hill Central” area of the Neighborhoods in Bloom, there is no question that Better Housing Coalition has had an amazing impact on the neighborhood.

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Boaz&Ruth house – First Avenue

After 10 minutes on 26th Street, the busses carried us to the 3000 block of 1st Avenue in Highland Park for a presentation by representatives from Boaz&Ruth. While BHC focusses very directly on providing quality affordable housing, Boaz & Ruth’s mission is “to rebuild lives and communities through relationships, training, transitional jobs, and economic revitalization”. They do have housing opportunities, but as an organization have a more holistic approach to rebuilding community.

Speaking on the change that has come to the blocks of 1st Avenue on which we were standing, the B&R representative cited a marked decrease in violence and of the opportunities that can be provided by working on getting properties livable and occupied. She gave the best quote that I heard on the tour, “something positive is better than vacancy”. These are words to take to heart in this city with blocks and blocks of vacant lots and boarded houses.

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Habitat for Humanity – Brookland Park Boulevard

Having begun the tour with the handsome BHC houses, I spent time here&there on the rest of the tour trying to quash thoughts about how tacky most low income housing looks, but Habitat for Humanity made that kind of difficult. Yes they do good things for people & this is better than a vacant lot, but why can’t folks get a decent window? Props for the Hardiplank anyway.

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Southside Community Development & Housing – 1702 Dinwiddie Avenue

I didn’t get a price for this one, but the realtor gave out a sheet with other similar new houses in the area going for $115,000-$160,000.


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