In 2024, the BRUU Housing Task Force is asking the City of Manassas to do the following:
– Create the position of Housing Coordinator
– Create a plan and strategy for affordable/attainable housing
– Identify where affordable/attainable housing could go, buy those properties and zone them accordingly
– Use the Housing Trust Fund to increase the number of owner-occupied units
– Partner with Manassas Park and Prince William County to coordinate the plan and obtain grant funding

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December 7, 2023 Housing Discussion
Sonia Vásquez Luna, Tom Osina, Del. Michelle Maldnado, and Mark Wolf on December 7

BRUU hosted a discussion on affordable housing in the City of Manassas on December 7, 2023.  Speakers and listeners included Del. Michelle Maldonado, Sonia Vásquez Luna, Tom Osina, and Mark Wolfe from City Council, city planning commissionrs and staff, plus local residents.

We explored:
– What is the city’s responsibility to ensure there is enough affordable housing?  How much is “enough”? Should the city have enough housing to match the number of jobs in the city that pay 80% or less of AMI?
– Where should the city plan for new affordable housing?  Should Manassas partner with PW County and Manassas Park to plan for housing that might be in any one of the three jurisdictions?
– Should the city focus exclusively on rental housing, or also subsidize housing to help address wealth inequality and help low-wealth households start increasing wealth through projected increase in housing equity?
– What barriers can be removed or incentives added to make affordable / workforce housing easier to build?

 

 

 

BRUU members range across the socio-economic spectrum, but we all care about the challenge of creating an adequate supply of affordable housing in Manassas, Manassas Park, and Prince William County.

Housing is a complex issue.  There is no silver bullet, no single solutions that would solve the problem if only social justice warriors would mobilize enough public pressure for elected officials to take action.  Getting enough affordable housing in our community, and in the right places, will be a marathon and not a short sprint.

Starting in 2022, a group of BRUUers began meeting once a month to learn about the many existing Federal/state agencies and programs that deal with housing.  (Interested? Contact us at housing@bruu.org)

We accepted Prince William County’s definition of affordable housing (“housing that costs 30% of the household’s annual gross income or less”) and chose to focus on the challenge for those earning 80% or less of Area Median Income (AMI).

We decoded acronyms such as LIHTC and started to understand which programs address which problems.  In particular, we focused on what can be done at the local level to expand the supply of affordable housing units, and where our advocacy could make a difference.

Within Manassas and Manassas Park, BRUU’s affordable housing advocates are meeting directly with developers, key officials, and elected leaders.  Much of BRUU’s social justice work regarding affordable housing in Prince William County is channeled through Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE).

It’s easier to recommend different solutions after clarifying the problem. Simply scattering new affordable housing units anywhere, far from affordable transportation, would be poor planning.  As noted in Prince William County’s long-range 2040 Comprehensive Plan’s Housing Chapter:
It is generally recommended that the combined cost of housing and commuting should not exceed 42% of a households’ gross income. On average, transportation is the second largest household expenditure after housing, and transportation costs are directly impacted by the location of housing, specifically proximity to employment, schools, and other essential service destinations.

One of our initial successes in 2022 was getting the problem quantified in Prince William County’s 2040 Housing Chapter:

One challenge in dealing with affordable housing is the complexity of the government programs and the need to decode bureaucratic jargon.  We finally figured out the number of units financed by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program in Manassas and Manassas Park, and when those units might be converted to market-rate housing:
22 units at Manassas Arms (financed via LIHTC in 1997, could be converted to market-rate rents in 2027)
82 units at South Main Commons (financed via LIHTC in 2000, could be converted to market-rate rents in 2030)
36 units at Signal Hill Apartments (financed via LIHTC in 2003, could be converted to market-rate rents in 2033)
148 units at Park Place (financed via LIHTC in 2004, could be converted to market-rate rents in 2034)
59 units at Oaks of Wellington (financed via LIHTC in 2005, could be converted to market-rate rents in 2035)
282 units at Brentwood (financed via LIHTC in 2009, could be converted to market-rate rents in 2039)
79 units at Quarry Station Seniors (financed via LIHTC in 2002, refinanced in 2023 to rehabilitate, could be converted to market-rate rents in 2053)
Source: NOVOGRADAC, LIHTC Mapping Tool

The shortfall in local affordable/workforce housing, requiring no more than 30% of a household’s income, is significant.  In 2021, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission calculated that Prince William County needed 8,800 more dwelling units (apartments/houses) to meet the demand for just the residents earning 50% or less of Area Median Income (AMI).

Even more units are needed to meet the demand for those earning betwen 50-80% AMI, and additional units for the residnts in the 80-120% AMI (which were hghlighte in Prnce William County’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan).  Bulding just 8,800 mor units will cost over $2 billion.

In 2023, the City of Manassas Housing Trust Fund had $2 million.  Prince William County needed to re-rstablish its Housing Trust Fund before it could accept proffers tied to new zonings, but had $2.5 million from rezonings approved before he proffer law was revised by the General Assembly.

Most funding for affordable/workforce housing in Manassas, Manassas Park, and Prince William County come from Federal and State sources:
– US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice (“Section 8”) vouchers provide a rent subsidy so people can afford market-rate apartments.  In PW County, such vouchers provide $35 million to support 2,000 families.
– The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) has a state rental assistance program so people with developmental disabilities can live in their own rental units, and a Permanent Supportive Housing program.  Additional support is available for veterans.
– The Virginia Homeless Solutions Program in the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development deals with “rapid rehousing.”
– Virginia Housing manages the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, subsidizing the construction of affordable housing units.

Resources

Prnce William County has identified a range of affordable housing needs, and various programs to address them: