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How Henrico County’s housing compares regionally

a headshot of Vithoulkas
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
Henrico County Manger John A. Vithoulkas listens during a Henrico County Board of Supervisor meeting on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 in Hanover County, Virginia.

Officials weigh-in on the region’s approach to affordable housing.

Henrico County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund was officially brought to life as the county’s board of supervisors unanimously approved creating the $60 million reserve during a public hearing Tuesday.

Those funds will be available to distribute among nonprofits and housing resources starting in July, according to county officials.

The trust fund is planned to replenish itself with real estate tax revenue from local data centers. (There are currently 16 in the county.) Henrico officials hope to transform the county’s ongoing efforts to make homeownership possible by collaborating with the Partnership for Housing Affordability — a Richmond-area housing nonprofit — and other community partners.

“Using our affordable housing trust, Henrico County will work with partners to buy buildable lots in communities throughout the county to create homes that will be affordable today, tomorrow and forever,” Board Chair Tyrone Nelson said in a statement.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner recently visited the Fairfield Area Library to meet with officials and housing representatives. There, he expressed support for the county’s transformative housing model.

“I thought I was going to hear a data center pitch. I hear a holistic pitch that is so much more forward-leaning,” Warner said.

Warner also recently discussed Henrico’s approach during a housing summit at Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City.

“I am wide open, and my office is wide open for business for new ideas,” Warner said. “We’re going to need some newer ideas.”

Henrico isn’t the first locality to set aside cash reserves to address housing issues. Richmond created its housing trust fund in 2008 as a tool to provide resources to address housing needs including support to local nonprofits, eviction diversion and homeless prevention services.

What sets the two trust funds apart is how they generate revenue.

In 2021, Richmond’s City Council adopted an ordinance that sets aside revenue from the sale of tax delinquent properties to its AHTF. The city also benefited from a $20 million reallocation of funds from the American Rescue Plan in FY22 and FY23.

City council approved an additional $10 contribution in fiscal 2025 during this year's budget proceedings.

However, local critics have been vocal over the city’s lack of transparency regarding its trust fund balance. Merrick Malone — Richmond’s interim director of housing and community development — told VPM News the city is continually making an effort to leverage its resources.

“We like to use our trust as a tool to address and support the local nonprofits,” Malone said. “We're trying to align our resources and leverage various subsidies in the city. That’s how you provide the affordability.”

Malone also said that in order for Richmond’s trust to remain successful, the city may need to rethink sustaining its trust in order to maintain its impact.

“I would say Richmond’s affordable housing trust fund has been very, very successful. It just needs more money,” Malone said. “It’s an excellent tool. I think the key is identifying a reliable source of funding on a continuous basis to keep replenishing it.”

Malone listed the Alexandria Housing Trust Fund and the Housing Production Trust Fund inWashington D.C. as more sustainable models that can provide more long term impact with their reliable funding avenues than the city’s existing framework.

Virginia Housing Alliance advocates for the expansion of housing opportunities and ending homelessness in Virginia, including advocating for the state’s housing trust fund.

Executive director Brian Koziol told VPM News housing reserves vary slightly across jurisdictions, but at the end of the day it's “the starting line” toward addressing housing and the elements that cause homelessness to begin with.

“What’s important for the localities to recognize is that having a housing trust fund is just the start,” Koziol said. “Once you've got the stability of housing then we can start to address what’s causing people to lose their homes, so I applaud any locality who’s willing to take that first step in creating a housing trust fund.”

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.
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