Update on Negotiations with the City: Affordable housing

You may be hearing a lot about negotiations around the North of Broad project where the Navy Hill neighborhood once stood. We wanted you to hear directly from our team about where things stand.

Affordable housing has emerged as the toughest issue. When the City issued its “request for proposals” last November, it included no specific threshold for affordable housing, but we decided to include it in our proposal anyway. We are proposing to build 280 affordable units downtown, which is one of the largest unsubsidized commitments to affordable housing in a private development in Richmond, ever. Two-hundred and eighty new affordable apartments is also a significant increase over the number of privately-developed affordable housing projects currently being developed in Richmond.

Even though our proposal is the largest ever, the City is asking for more. Like every development group, we have to balance two things:

  1. the basic economic need to generate returns for the private investors who will pay to build apartments, with

  2. the community goal of generating as much affordable housing as possible.

These are tough issues, and they are not unique to Richmond. Most cities around the country are facing tough questions about providing housing that people can afford. In fact, in our community listening sessions, we met one developer who told us, “I used to do affordable housing, but I stopped because I couldn’t make the numbers work. Now I only do market-rate apartments.” That’s happening more and more around the country.

We’re working hard to find a path forward, and we’re trying to be creative. We’ll keep you posted.

Jeff Kelley