The Community Foundation of the New River Valley Promotes Senior Housing in Rural Virginia
The Community Foundation of the New River Valley (CFNRV) fosters collaboration in and around the rural Virginia municipalities of Radford and Blacksburg by engaging in community partnerships, facilitating fundraising for local philanthropic efforts, and providing capacity-building grants and training. In 2009, CFNRV and its partners successfully applied for a three-year, $1 million Sustainable Communities Initiative Regional Planning Grant. To manage the planning process, CFNRV joined with the New River Valley Regional Commission in 2011 to form the New River Valley Livability Initiative. After an extensive period of public participation, the effort produced the 2015 New River Valley Livability Plan. The Livability Initiative is now implementing the plan’s 18 goals. To help implement the Livability Plan and create incentives for area organizations to collaborate, CFNRV created the Fund for the NRV. Through the fund, CFNRV supports four Livability Initiative programs, including the Aging in Place program. Plan objectives related to the region’s aging population, especially those pertaining to housing, were urgently needed. As a result, the initial projects of Aging in Place were a home repair program and the development of mixed-income senior housing, for which CFNRV earned a HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships in 2016.
Aging in Place
While preparing the Livability Plan, community representatives discovered that the population of seniors in the New River Valley region was expected to double within the next 20 years. In response, the Livability Initiative created the Aging in Place Leadership Team, its first working group, in 2015. In the three years since its launch, the leadership team, which is composed of volunteers from CFNRV and other Livability Initiative partners, has embarked on two major projects related to senior housing.
The first project was the Lifespan Friendly Homes program. The pilot program performed home repairs for low-income seniors with an emphasis on aging in place, safety, and energy efficiency. The leadership team partnered with Habitat for Humanity to repair 24 houses. The pilot, which was made possible by an $84,000 Partners for Places matching grant, concluded in 2016, but the city of Blacksburg has continued the program with funding from the Community Development Block Grant program. Because of the significant need for the program in the city, Blacksburg lifted the pilot’s age restriction. “We found that age was not a relevant factor in Blacksburg,” explains Kim Thurlow, director of community programs at CFRV and former project manager for the Livability Initiative.
The leadership team’s second major project is the Old Prices Fork School Comprehensive Community Revitalization Project, a three-phased renovation of a historic elementary school into mixed-income housing and a local-food hub. Described by Thurlow as the “showcase project” of the Livability Initiative, the development was designed to provide affordable housing for Montgomery County seniors and foster economic development that preserves the region’s agricultural heritage and promotes community resilience.
The first phase, which opened in 2017, consisted of renovating the school and constructing 16 two-bedroom apartment units in the former classrooms. The apartments are restricted to seniors aged 55 and over, with 10 units open to low-income tenants and 6 market-rate units. Architectural details such as the building’s windows and tiling were restored, and blackboards were retained as reminders of the original use of each apartment. The leadership team also solicited local artists to create art for the development based on impressions of old farm tools from the area.
The second phase of the Prices Fork project, which is scheduled to open in spring 2019, will modify the school’s cafeteria and auditorium to accommodate an incubator kitchen to support local food entrepreneurs, a commercial dining space and kitchen for a farm-to-table restaurant, a brewery, a store selling local products, and a meeting room for cultural and educational events. The school’s stage will be retained in the restaurant space. In the third phase, a mixed-income residential building will be constructed at the back of the property; unlike the first phase, this portion of the project will not have an age requirement for residency.
The first phase of the Old Prices Fork School Comprehensive Community Revitalization Project cost approximately $2.7 million, amounting to $167,328 per unit (table 1). Most of the financing came from HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds allocated by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which contributed $500,000, and the New River Valley HOME Consortium, which contributed $670,000.
Table 1: Old Prices Fork School Comprehensive Community Revitalization Project Funding, Phase I
|Virginia Community Capital loan||$700,000|
|HOME Investment Partnerships Program grants||1,170,000|
|Historic tax credit equity||408,750|
|Deferred developer fee||91,000|
This financing package did not require any money from the Fund for the NRV, which CFNRV established in 2014 to support the Livability Initiative’s implementation. Although, as a community foundation, CFNRV handles more than $1 million in donations for area nonprofits each year, most of this money is earmarked for specific organizations or projects. The Fund for the NRV allows more flexibility, supporting projects of the Aging in Place and other three implementation programs of the Livability Initiative: Thrive, to expand food access, improve nutrition, and support health; First Steps, to support early childhood education and development; and the Nonprofit Leadership Institute, to provide training and other resources to build the skills and capacity of nonprofit leaders. As of September 2018, the fund has raised nearly $700,000. CFNRV estimates that in four years projects affiliated with the fund’s four programs have brought an additional $10 million of public and private investment to the region.
Promoting Seniors’ Quality of Life
The Aging in Place Leadership Team and its partners have also launched programs indirectly related to housing but important for the region’s aging population in other ways: an Aging in Place workbook and accompanying curriculum and the New River Valley TimeBank. A 2017 pilot test of the workbook in classes on planning and preparing for aging was positively received, with residents requesting instructional materials before they were ready to distribute. “The next step is to develop a train-the-trainer curriculum to teach social service providers and church officials how to facilitate discussions in the community,” says Thurlow. The New River Valley TimeBank, with implementation funding from the Fund for the NRV, is a website where residents can offer or request volunteer services, creating a “sharing community” of mutual support. With the continued assistance of the CFNRV and other partners, the Aging in Place Leadership Team will continue to improve healthy, safe, and affordable aging in place for the region’s seniors.
Interview with Kim Thurlow, director of community programs for the Community Foundation of the New River Valley, 19 September 2018; Community Foundation of the New River Valley. n.d. "Aging in Place Work-to-Date." Accessed 10 September 2018; Community Foundation of the New River Valley. n.d. “What We Do.” Accessed 10 September 2018.×
Interview with Kim Thurlow, director of community programs for the Community Foundation of the New River Valley, 19 September 2018.×
Interview with Kim Thurlow, 19 September 2018; Correspondence from Kim Thurlow, 1 November 2018; Community Foundation of the New River Valley. n.d. "Aging in Place Work-to-Date." Accessed 10 September 2018.×
Interview with Kim Thurlow, 19 September 2018.×
Interview with Kim Thurlow, 19 September 2018.×
Interview with Kim Thurlow, 19 September 2018; Correspondence from Kim Thurlow, 1 November 2018.×
Documents provided by Kim Thurlow, 15 October 2018.×
Interview with Kim Thurlow, 19 September 2018; Community Foundation of the New River Valley. n.d. “Fund for the NRV Initiatives.” Accessed 10 September 2018; Community Foundation of the New River Valley. n.d. “Financial Information.” Accessed 10 October 2018.×
Interview with Kim Thurlow, 19 September 2018; Community Foundation of the New River Valley. n.d. "Aging in Place Work-to-Date." Accessed 10 September 2018.×