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Richmond Transfers 15 Properties To Land Trust For Affordable Housing

aerial photo of downtown Richmond
(Image: Craig Carper/VPM)

Richmond City Council has approved a proposal from Mayor Levar Stoney to transfer 15 parcels of city-owned land to the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust. 

The 15 transferred parcels are part of a list of 32 city-owned properties identified in the 2020 Biennial Real Estate Plan to be developed for affordable home ownership. Twenty one other properties across the city are being looked at for income-restricted apartment buildings or other multi-family development. The Stoney administration has committed to the goal of creating 10,000 affordable housing units by 2030.

Speaking about the transfer earlier this month, Sharon Ebert, deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, said the transfer will help bolster affordable home ownership in Richmond.

“A lot of those 15 parcels will actually allow more than one single-family unit to be built on them, and we are going to ask that development agreements be associated with each parcel to make sure they get developed within the next five years,” she said. 

The 2020 Biennial Real Estate Plan, approved by City Council last month, also identified 12 city-owned properties that could be sold for large, mixed-use developments, including the Richmond Coliseum.

The Maggie Walker Community Land Trust has acted as the city’s land bank since 2018, taking control of vacant or tax delinquent properties to create affordable housing. The city has transferred around 35 properties to the organization since its inception. 

Typically, the Land Trust uses a legal mechanism to keep control over the land even after selling the home at an affordable rate. By maintaining control of the property, the Land Trust can restrict the future sale price to maintain affordability while still allowing the homeowner to sell at a profit and create wealth.

Erica Sims, CEO of the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust, said the non-profit, along with a patchwork of other regional organizations, tries to alleviate the growing affordable housing crisis.

“The median home price is now over $300,000,” Sims said. “The need for homes at $250,000; $200,000; $150,000; all of those needs are extremely great.”

Sims said the Land Trust hasn't figured out yet whether all of the 15 properties will be used for affordable homeownership, or some other use. They plan to work with other affordable housing developers and the surrounding neighborhood to create the right developments. 

“We’re not talking about large development parcels, but small-scale lots that are appropriate for primarily residential,” Sims said. “That’s like single-family homes, duplex, maybe even triplex.”

Two of the properties — 5913 Fergusson Road in the West End, and 3100 Alvis Avenue in Northside — could be used for a community garden, according to city officials. Under the ordinance approved by City Council Monday night, the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust is required to submit a development plan for each property.