Student housing's impact on Charlottesville

The Standard is emblematic of an overarching affordable housing problem

15613_nsvinegarhillcourtesycityofcharlottesvillef

The demolition of Vinegar Hill persists as an example of the injustices carried out against black Charlottesville residents.

Courtesy City of Charlottesville | Courtesy City of Charlottesville

Each Fall semester, housing becomes a prominent concern for students at the University as they begin to explore housing options both on and off Grounds. Fortunately for some, The Standard, a newly constructed apartment complex on West Main Street, will begin offering leases in less than a month. The fully-furnished complex will feature restaurants, retail shops and other luxurious amenities to appeal to University students. Unfortunately, these new housing options often carry with them hidden costs borne by the community. As students, it’s time for us to question what sacrifices are made when Charlottesville makes such accommodations on our behalf.

The Standard sits on two and a half acres and was granted a special use permit for its six-story, 70-foot structure. While it seems to be an attractive solution to students’ desire for more off-Grounds housing options, both its proximity to downtown and Landmark Properties’ donation of $665,777 to the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund indicate that The Standard will not include affordable housing units. The rates of the new apartment complex will likely exclude lower-income Charlottesville residents, who already compete with students for affordable housing in the area. This implication in itself is demonstrative of the socioeconomic disparities within the Charlottesville community.

Charlottesville currently faces an affordable housing crisis, with apartment rates increasing by almost four percent over the past year. The New York Times recently published an article revealing that on the day that Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park, it also approved a $4 million plan to address racial disparities within the city. Such a decision might be considered as reparations for what happened to Vinegar Hill. While well-intended, in the face of projects like The Standard, the Council’s decision is more symbolic than practical. Nearly half a century after the demolition of Vinegar Hill, there are still about 1,100 families on the waitlist for Charlottesville's 376 public housing units, some of whom have been waiting for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the city issues weak promises to increase public housing a mere 15 percent by 2025.

The City of Charlottesville and the University are tightly intertwined. Locals have come to support all types of causes on Grounds, from trick-or-treating on the Lawn to retracing the path of hate that white supremacists took through Grounds. In fighting for our rights and safety, we need to support all aspects of the community and not simply the ones which are most convenient. Peace marches, the removal of Confederate memorials and promises of a more equal community are nice on paper. However, as University students and — more importantly — as members of the Charlottesville community, we need to push for more practical advancements.

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