1950: South Norfolk’s housing authority
Before becoming its own city, Chesapeake is called South Norfolk, and the South Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (SNRHA) manages the community’s development of public residential space. The SNRHA comprises a five-member board that works to accommodate postwar growth in the area.
1959: A New Building’s New Approach
The 170-unit Broadlawn Park development (left) is built in South Norfolk to respond to housing needs created by an urban-renewal project that involved the demolition and reconstruction of 838 residential and commercial buildings. “[It] was the first housing development in the South that was built as duplex structures,” Willis says. It marked a change for the practical and strategic future of public housing.
1963–1972: Changing names
As a result of Norfolk’s new district acquisition, the SNRHA is renamed the South Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority of Chesapeake. Then, by act of the organization’s general assembly in 1972, it expands to a seven-member board and arrives at its present name: the Chesapeake Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
1976: First Section 8 units
The award of an annual contributions contract from HUD helps the CRHA afford new Section 8 housing, totaling 75 units, from a budget of $157,848. “As a result of this contract, we were able to substantially increase affordable-housing opportunities,” Willis says. The CRHA continues to pursue Section 8 opportunities and by 2011 maintains authority over 1,619 vouchers with a total budget of $11 million.
1987–1994: More public and affordable housing
Adding to the Broadlawn Park and 152-unit MacDonald Manor developments it already manages, the CRHA acquires the Schooner Cove, Owens Village, and Peaceful Village communities, which provide an additional 145 public-housing units. During this time, the CRHA also creates the Narrow Street, Meadow Landing North, and Twin Creeks affordable-housing developments to pad its holdings with another 68 units.
2001: Stretching a dollar
“We were awarded a $5.8 million up-front grant in 1997,” Willis says. “It was to be used for renovating and repositioning properties and offering supportive services for low- to moderate-income residents.” So, when HUD forecloses on the 152-unit, cooperatively owned Geneva Square condominiums (left), CRHA acquires the property for $1 and uses the grant to revamp the entire subdivision.
2004: A community on the upswing
The CRHA concludes phase 1 construction of Campostella Square (right), providing rental units and private homes ranging from $78,000 to $158,000. The development was once the site of the World War II-era Foundation Park subdivision, which contained 850 working-class homes that had fallen into disrepair. CRHA secured a Section 108 loan in the early 1990s and partnered with the City of Chesapeake, Habitat for Humanity, and the Tidewater Builders Association to level and rebuild the blighted community.
2009: A massive funding spike
The CRHA receives a $3.3 million competitive grant thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “We were really fortunate to receive this grant from HUD,” Willis says. “It enabled us to develop 24 EarthCraft-certified, green public-housing units in Schooner Cove.” The CRHA provides Section 8 relocation vouchers to 24 residents of the neighborhood and begins the sustainable rehabilitation of the units (below). Schooner Cove is scheduled to reopen in summer 2012.
2011–Present Empowering residents
Recession-related budget cuts affect the CRHA and other major American housing authorities, but Willis remains optimistic. By pouring additional energy into creative residential services such as the annual CRHA Empowerment Conference, the authority continues working to equip its tenants with the tools and skills needed to move beyond public housing. “We certainly understand the need for bricks and sticks,” Willis says, “but our real passion is empowering our residents to succeed and be free of public assistance.” ABQ