Non-profit brings affordable housing to Blacksburg

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) It's a renters market in Blacksburg as investors buy houses to rent to students, but a local non-profit is bringing affordable housing options back to future homeowners.

The day started with the demolition of 709 Montgomery St. near Virginia Tech's campus. The old, rundown property was once a Virginia Tech fraternity house. Now Community Housing Partners wants this house to see better days.

"We focus on creating healthy, affordable, sustainable houses and communities," Jake Powell, Director of Homeownership for CHP, said.

But affordable housing is hard to find in Blacksburg for low to moderate income families.

"They're being priced out of the market based on a very attractive rental market," Powell said.

According to Powell, a family of four that makes $55,000 a year should be able to afford about a $200,000 mortgage. However, the average cost for a single family, detached house is $305,000 in Blacksburg.

That means some families who work in and serve the Blacksburg community, like teachers and police officers, can't afford to own a home in town and are forced to live in the surrounding area.

The Lodas are one of those families. Emily Loda moved here with her husband who is studying for his doctorate at Virginia Tech. They've been proud homeowners since August, something they didn't think they'd be able to do while he was in school.

"We knew we'd be able to afford it while he's in school so no matter what we'd be able to afford while he's out of school," Emily Loda said

Loda says homeownership gives them a better sense of stability.

"When it's our own, it just feels like a long term investment; like we're doing to this to make it even more what we're looking for, what works for our family," Loda said.

It's also an investment in the community.

"It creates a tighter community I think. We're anchoring homeowners in neighborhoods that traditional don't have them," Powell said.

So with a new foundation, a couple walls, a new roof and maybe some paint, 709 Montgomery St. will one day be someone's home too.

The Bennett Hill Affordable Housing Project is an ongoing program with down payment assistance that allows these homes to be affordable to low to moderate income households.