Affordable rental development coming to Powhatan Terrace

Staff writer

After some twists and turns, the stage is set for Powhatan Terrace to add to the county’s stock of affordable rental housing.

The James City Board of Supervisors recently agreed to accept an amended proffer condition tied to the construction of the development. Previously, the condition in question required a minimum of three units be offered for sale instead of rent. At the request of the developer, Housing Partnerships, the board unanimously struck out that requirement.

Though envisioned as an affordable housing development since the Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning and special-use permit in 2008, the development has transitioned from offering for-sale units to a mixture of for-sale and for-rent units to a development of rental units.

Housing Partnerships, a York-based social services nonprofit, wants to build the 36-unit development of townhouses with tax credits from the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

Rents in the development will be targeted at households in the range of 40 percent, 50 percent and 60 percent of the area’s median income.

The fiscal year 2018 area median income for the Virginia-Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitan statistical area, of which Williamsburg, James City County and York County are a part of, is $75,000, according to the Virginia Housing Development Authority.

The desire to take advantage of the tax credits presented a hurdle for the project, as it existed prior to the supervisors’ vote on March 12. The presence of for-sale units would threaten the development’s eligibility for the program. The allocation of tax credits will be finalized in December 2019.

“The applicant has determined that having three units for sales could disqualify the project from (the program),” county planner Tori Haynes told supervisors at that meeting.

When first proposed, the development’s units were to be for sale. In 2018, the board approved a request to amend the proffer conditions to allow Powhatan Terrace to offer rental units, Haynes said.

The problematic proffer condition was revised to read that at least three affordable rental units with rates at or below 60 percent of the area’s median income are required to exist, with annual verification of rental rates provided to the county planning director for 15 years.

In 2008, the board rezoned 16.5 acres of land on Jamestown Road between Raleigh Square and The Cottages at Stone Haven from limited business and general residential to general residential, with proffers and a special-use permit for cluster overlay. The development was approved for construction of six two-story buildings with a total of 36 townhomes. At that time, all units were intended for sale. As part of original proffer, one condition addressed affordable housing by requiring at least three price-restricted units be offered for sale, according to the staff report.

“Unfortunately, that project was not successful,” said Tom Tingle, of Guernsey Tingle Architects. Tingle filed the application and his firm is assisting the project. “Our intention is to go forward with an application … for a completely affordable housing project.”

Initially, the applicant didn’t see a need for changes to the for-sale proffer in 2018. Further study suggested the presence of the for-sale units would disqualify the development from the tax credits, Tingle said.

As a nonprofit project, the development won’t complete in the tax credit program with Oakland Pointe, which is being developed by a for-profit company, Tingle said.

Three people spoke in favor of the proffer amendment at the public hearing that precede the vote.

“This is a project that has been on your books for a while … in its present form it would make a dent in getting resolution to some of our workforce housing needs, especially rental units,” said Ginny Wertman, who was a member of the county’s affordable housing task force.

The request comes amid other recent developments in the county’s affordable housing scene. Late last month the supervisors voted to approve a rezoning application to allow construction of the 119-unit affordable housing complex Oakland Pointe, which would be located in Norge.

The county’s affordable housing task force wrapped up about a year of study in February, voting to approve a report detailing more than a dozen strategy recommendations to address housing problems. That report will be passed along to the county supervisors in the near future.

Supervisor Michael Hipple called the project a smart solution to the county’s housing problems.

“I think this will be another tool in our toolbox,” he said.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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