Lynchburg, VA - Those involved in the house hunt for residents leaving the Virginian apartments say there is a much bigger issue involved with the closing of the building, affordable housing in Lynchburg is almost impossible to come by.
Lynchburg’s affordable housing waiting total into the hundreds for section 8 apartments, coupled with an affordable housing market stuck in a major rut.
The Virginian Apartment building, a bastion of bed bugs and broken elevators is no more; officially closed at the end of august.
"We knew that folks were going to have questions, they were going to be nervous, they were going to be worried, they were going to be anxious. Some folks have lived in the Virginian for a very long time” said Cindy Sommers, Interim Executive Director of the Lynchburg Neighborhood Development Foundation.
Sommers sat on the community group dedicated to finding the Virginian's tenants new homes.They're accomplishments have been huge.
"About 68 vouchers have actually been issued to folks” she said.
Almost all residents now have new affordable housing vouchers, allowing them to look anywhere in the U.S. in their search for a new home.Also, CENTRA stepped up in big way with a $19,000 grant to pay for two on site housing counselors.
But there's still one major issue.
"The problem is that the housing stock isn't out there” said Lynchburg Mayor, Mike Gillette.
Gillette is well aware that there is not enough affordable housing in his city.
"The city doesn't fund these programs and the city doesn't own the housing stock. So it's not as though the city has done anything to cut the inventory this is really a problem that trickles down from the very top” he said.
HUD funding has taken a nose dive.Dropping drastically, thousands of dollars a year, and as a result, it has limited the options to build new and renovate old apartments for those that can't afford full price.
"They can only use those vouchers for market rate apartments. So if landlords are trying to get a higher rate, then they're not going to be willing to rent to someone who is using a voucher” said Gillette.
Gillette said the best way to stop the problem is to get city, state, and federal funding all to incentivize local, private builders to invest in affordable housing.