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Federal Pandemic Aid: Advocates Call for More Affordable Housing

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AP Photo / John Bazemore
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Lawmakers will be back in Richmond next week to figure out how to spend $4 billion of federal stimulus money. One agenda item they'll be debating is affordable housing.

The lack of affordable housing in Virginia was a problem long before the pandemic, although the economic crisis made it much worse. Now lawmakers are trying to figure out how to spend four billion dollars of federal stimulus money, and Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy says they should use some of it for affordable housing.

"Well this is relief and recovery is what the funds are called, relief and recovery," Bobo says. "So a key part of recovering is clearly; it’s affordable housing."

Non-profit affordable housing developers have outlined a proposal to spend $430 million, and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade has a proposal to spend $500 million. Christie Marra at the Virginia Poverty Law Center says getting people into affordable housing will help stabilize the economy.

"We would very much like to see the vast majority or all of that money spent on the creation of hard, actual units of both affordable rental housing and affordable houses for sale — for purchase — that would be affordable to people at or below 60% of area median income," Marra explains.

The special session begins August 2nd, and lawmakers will determine two things: how to spend all that stimulus money and also who will be sitting as judges for a newly-expanded appeals court.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.