City council increases ARHA loan for Ramsey Homes

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By James Cullum (Photo/James Cullum)

City councilors unanimously agreed Tuesday to increase its loan to the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority for the Ramsey Homes redevelopment project from $1.1 million to $2 million.

In a letter to council, ARHA officials cited increased material and labor costs associated with the fact that the project was delayed a year in applying for federal low income housing tax credits, a dramatic increase in the property’s value as well as uncertainty because of the potential for tax reform efforts on the federal level.

In the plan approved by council last year, the four existing buildings, which were constructed during World War II to house black defense workers and currently house 15 affordable units, would be demolished to make way for a four-story building containing 52 mixed-income units.

ARHA president and CEO Roy Priest did not come to council chambers empty-handed. He presented councilors with a $5.9 million check as payment toward an $18.5 million loan from the city. So far, ARHA has repaid $14.5 million and $1.9 million in interest.

“I appreciate your efforts,” Priest told officials. “And I look forward to our future together providing affordable housing for the residents of our city.”

Signals of animosity between council, the public and ARHA staff over the Ramsay Homes redevelopment seemed nonexistent, a far cry from when the project was first considered last February.

After a heated debate over whether to preserve some of the original buildings and concerns about ARHA’s transparency, city councilors denied the project, only to reverse that decision just days later and come up with a joint plan to improve communication between the bodies.

Although council initially requested a plan to save one of the buildings, eventually councilors unanimously approved the project last November.

“I certainly appreciate all of your hard work, and everyone on your staff,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg. “Affordable housing is so critical for our city. … I think that your staff and our staffs are working so well together is a great sign.”

Daniel Bauman, chairman of the ARHA board of directors, echoed Silberberg’s comments.

“We see tremendous value in the partnership that we have with the city that has served our residents over the last decades,” he said. “We are definitely seeing a great deal of collaboration and cooperation between ARHA staff and city staff.”

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