The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) announced that it has received federal approval to convert three sites from public housing to Housing Choice Voucher funding, kicking off plans to redevelop all of the Virginia agency’s properties.
Funding for vouchers is significantly higher than public housing subsidies, and the approvals represent a major step in the agency’s ambitious five-year plan. ARHA is laying the foundation to ultimately upgrade and sustain its entire 754 units of public housing, plus build new workforce and market-rate housing, said officials.
Officials are conducting a physical needs assessment, and the redevelopment of the portfolio is expected to take between five and 10 years.
The first three properties approved for conversion by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are Ladrey High-Rise, Park Place, and Saxony Square, which have a combined 213 units. The rents at other public housing sites will be converted through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, again changing the funding source from public housing to an increased funding stream.
“These tools will increase the cash flow at each site,” said ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew in a statement. “There is a tremendous backlog of maintenance at public housing communities across the nation, including Alexandria, and these conversions will allow us to catch up, stay ahead, and ensure that our residents live in high-quality, well-maintained buildings.”
Under its plan, ARHA will seek approval to convert 504 public housing units using RAD and the Section 18 demolition/disposition program. When that milestone is reached, its remaining 250 units will automatically be approved for Housing Choice Vouchers, clearing the way for the entire public housing portfolio in Alexandria to be funded under this higher formula, according to officials. Importantly, ARHA will retain ownership of these properties through its own nonprofit subsidiary.
“The outstanding facet of this subsidy conversion is that tenant protections will remain in place,” Pettigrew said. “Tenant share of rent will not change, and our mission of serving poor and extremely poor households will be strengthened. Our goal is to preserve housing for vulnerable populations and improve the quality of life for our current residents.”
Higher operating subsidies will allow ARHA to rebuild each property more aggressively. At each redeveloped site, ARHA will be able to provide amenity spaces and a management office, and ensure strengthening the social fabric of a community is an integral part of the redevelopment.
Last November, HUD reported that the RAD program surpassed more than $10 billion investment in the improvement and replacement of public housing. Approximately 165,000 homes have been preserved, improved, or replaced, of which 140,000 are RAD-converted units and 25,000 are income-restricted affordable housing and market-rate units in the same properties.