The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

New Lexington apartment complex to include affordable housing

The city, like the nation, faces a shortage of affordable housing
Echelon Resources
Rendering of the apartment complex planned to be built on the former Virginia Department of Transportation property.

A planned apartment complex in Lexington will include several affordable units, not just high-end rentals.

Echelon Resources said about 20% of its 150 to 200 apartments planned for the old Virginia Department of Transportation site will be reserved for lower-income tenants. 

A single renter in Lexington who earns up to $38,300 a year qualifies for affordable housing. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines housing as affordable if the occupant is paying no more than 30% of their income for gross housing costs, including utilities.

The rent for the affordable units has not been determined, but it will be lower than the other apartments, which will be market rate, City Council Member Marylin Alexander said. Projected rents are $1,200 to $1,400 per month for one-bedroom units and $1,600 to $1,900 for two-bedroom units, according to Echelon. 

The target market for the three-to-four story complex will be community professionals, retirees and young families.

Lexington City Council voted unanimously to approve the sale of the five-acre property to Echelon on Oct. 5. The company agreed to pay the city $724,900. 

Echelon said it plans to develop 5,000 square feet of commercial space on the property. 

The non-commercial space should generate between $375,000 and $500,000 in tax revenue a year, Echelon said. 

Lexington began accepting development proposals in January for the site, which it purchased from the state in 2022. Echelon first brought its plan to the council on March 13. 

Alexander said that there is a desperate need for affordable housing in Lexington, which the apartment complex would help alleviate. 

“But I don’t think that is going to fulfill all the needs that are in the community,” she said. 

There is only one Section Eight public housing complex in Lexington—Mountainview Terrace Apartments, which Alexander manages. The Section Eight program, which is subsidized by the federal government, provides housing assistance to very low-income families

Alexander said that Mountainview has experienced a recent increase in applications, which indicates a growing problem. 

“When our applications increase, then the needs are getting to be much more prevalent,” she said. 

A lack of affordable housing is a state and nationwide trend. Virginia has a shortage of 174,000 affordable rental homes, and the nation has a shortage of 6.8 million, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. 

Echelon is also planning to build 62 more apartments on a two-acre Spotswood Drive property. None of these apartments will be reserved for low-income residents. 

A long road ahead 

Development of the old VDOT property has been over a decade in the making, City Council Member David Sigler said. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “The Virginia Department of Transportation has known they were leaving that location for years.” 

Echelon now has 18 months to conduct surveys at the site, in which it may back out at any time. 

The company and its partner UrbanCore Construction will then have a year to begin construction. 

The city council voted unanimously at the Oct. 5 meeting to extend the due diligence period for the Spotswood property to coincide with the VDOT property. Spotswood was purchased by Echelon in 2022. 

City Manager Jim Halasz said that new housing will benefit Lexington, as well as mitigate the worker shortage. 

“To a certain extent, the viability of the future in a community depends on housing,” he said. “If you want people to work in the community, if you want nurses, you’ve got to find a place for them.” 

This story originally aired on the Rockbridge Report. 

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