Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber paid a visit to City Hall last week in the midst of a fire drill, but he wasn't there to talk football or even politics.
Barber, a correspondent for NBC's "Today Show," has a side job investing in low-income housing projects. He was in town to try to score points with Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, Chief Administrative Officer Sheila Hill-Christian and Rachel Flynn, director of community development. ("I didn't know who he was," Flynn confesses.)
His business, Tiki Ventures, LLC, has partnered with a New York City firm, Related Affordable, to purchase, renovate and re-landscape Woodcroft Village, a 250-unit apartment complex at the corner of Jennie Scher and Government roads in the Fulton neighborhood.
As part of the project's financing, Barber wants to acquire federal low-income housing credits. The tax credits are available to developers who agree to keep rents low. In Richmond, that means if a developer rents to a family of four, for example, the family would have to make less than $34,650 a year, and rent could be no more than $780 a month for a two-bedroom unit or $900 for a three-bedroom, including utilities.
Winning the tax credits is a competitive process. This year the Virginia Housing Development Authority, the agency responsible for distributing the low-income housing credits, has received more than twice as many applications as there are available credits.
Which explains Barber's visit with Wilder.
Applicants earn points for clearing certain hurdles and having a letter of support from the sponsoring locality, says Jim Chandler, director of low-income-housing tax-credit programs for the VHDA. The credits are divided into regional pools, meaning Barber's project will compete against others in Richmond. That includes an application from the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority for work on Dove Court, for which the administration has also written a letter of support.
Chandler says he's not sure what that means for Barber's project, but says that other localities sometimes decline to write letters for private developers competing against their own housing authorities.
Flynn says the city is waiting for the landscaping plans before it will make a final determination on a letter of support.
Barber has also applied for credits toward projects in Portsmouth, Danville and Roanoke.