AHIP Looks to Fix Up Houses in Orchard Acres

The Orchard Acres neighborhood. Click for full-res PDF.
The Orchard Acres neighborhood. Click for full-res PDF.

The nonprofit Albemarle Housing Improvement Program, AHIP, is applying for a state grant to renovate a neighborhood and has selected Crozet’s Orchard Acres as its candidate neighborhood. Homeowners in Orchard Acres could stand to get up to $25,000 of needed repairs made to their houses if they meet income qualifications.

“We help homeowners make repairs to their houses,” AHIP president Jennifer Jacob told the group of about 40 people who turned out for an presentation Jan. 25 at The Meadows  about the grant process and what the benefits for residents might be. “We try to get to the most urgent first, but now we have an opportunity to cluster projects. Crozet has neighborhoods. We zoned in on Orchard Acres. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, but there are repairs that need to be made.”

County housing director Ron White told the group that the state has $9 million in federal money to spend statewide on housing projects this year. He passed out application sheets for residents to fill out.

There are roughly 130 houses in Orchard Acres, most dating from the 1960s and ’70s. “We want to get close to a 100 percent response rate,” White said. “We’ll be calling on those who do not send forms in.” Albemarle County will be the official applicant for the grant. It is due by late March. White held out hope that another such funding opportunity will come next year too.

AHIP believes that if the neighborhood wins, the grant will be somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000. Gov. McDonnell will announce the selected projects in July and work on repairs could begin in September. The repairs will be done by professional AHIP crews. “We’re accountable for the work,” Jacobs assured the audience.

Project manager Joyce Dudek said she got 15 responses from a mailing to residents in October. She offered to help fill out forms and to inspect houses to see what repairs are needed. By the end of the meeting she had 22 applications. AHIP hopes to inspect at least 15 houses before the application is due. Rental properties are not considered. Crozet Crossings, built in the 1980s, is not part of the grant. An estimator will visit every income-eligible applicant. The eligibility ceiling is 80 percent of median income in our five-county region of central Virginia or $62,000 for a family of four, or $43,600 for a single person.

Repairs have to be related to health, safety or energy issues and cannot be merely cosmetic. Moisture and drainage problems are typical, as are roofing, plumbing, HVAC and electrical repairs, and replacement of doors and windows. The grant will pay to connect to public sewer, Dudek said.

Homeowners will have a lien on their property for the value of the repairs for 10 years and make payments on it based on a formula that considers their monthly expenses. If a homeowner has a very low income, no payment may be expected. After 10 years the debt is forgiven. If a homeowner sells the house before then he must repay the outstanding balance to the county.

“The purpose is to enable you to stay in your house, not to enable you to make money on it. We expect you to be up front with us,” said AHIP rehab director Jane Andrews.

AHIP has gotten grants like this before. “We have a good reputation with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. They are happy with our compliance and our reporting.”

“Community involvement is pivotal to getting the grant,” said Dudek. “They want the community to own it and not be dragged into it by an agency.” AHIP regards the grant competition as fierce.

Susan Miller, a 40-year resident, volunteered to talk about the grant around the neighborhood.