Community News


Originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 59, printed August 23. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

NH District Corp., the developer hoping to revamp a 10-block area of downtown Richmond, has said the project will include “affordable housing,” as well as a new event venue to replace the aging Coliseum. 

An Aug. 19 investigative report by VPM (until recently known as WCVE, a National Public Radio affiliate) asked some questions about the meaning of the word “affordable.” 

According to the report, a studio apartment in the project would cost from $977 to $1,180. A one-bedroom will rent for between $1,047 and $1,509, while a two-bedroom would run between $1,256 and $1,811. 

Supporters of full funding for Richmond public schools prepare to join a Dec. 8 march to the Virginia State Capitol. Many Richmonders see public spending on a new coliseum as taking tax monies away from education. (The endless wars do the same thing.) Photo by someone nice enough to take a photo for us.

So we did a little calculation. The rule of thumb in real estate is that housing should cost no more than 30 percent of a worker’s income. That means that, to afford just the cheapest studio apartment, someone would have to earn at least $3,256.60 a month – that’s $18.50 an hour for an eight-hour day.  Renting the least expensive one-bedroom would require a monthly income of $3,490.00 ($19.83 an hour), while the cheapest two-bedroom would mean $4,186.60 a month, or $23.79 an hour. 

So who thinks these rents are “affordable?” 

The guy spearheading the Navy Hill project is none other than Thomas F. Farrell II, CEO of Dominion Energy, who happens to be the highest-paid utility executive in the entire country, with an estimated net worth of $29.3 million. 

So for him, these apartments would be “affordable.” 

For the rest of us, using that word to describe the rents is nothing more than a cruel joke.

Categories: Community News

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