we will work to expand and strengthen the african-american middle class of Greater Charlottesville through the following three pillars. We welcome your input and look forward to hearing from you.
PILLAR 1: FINANCIAL LITERACY
Financial literacy is a fundamental part of our plan to revitalize and diversify the middle class in Charlottesville. In order to take advantage of affordable homes, establish and scale businesses, and create wealth, residents will need the credit scores and financial know-how to get a mortgage and transition to homeownership. Historically, many of the residents we serve have been underbanked, subject to predatory lending practices, and excluded from financial services. Rather than recreating the wheel ourselves, we intend to partner with some of the best national nonprofit organizations doing this work, use their proven methods, and create a bridge of trust to bring them into our community. We will engage local banks and financial advising firms to support this work by hosting established community leaders as financial coaches who can connect them to these services and ensure banks are serving the local population in a way that is approachable. We will also build relationships with the national “black banking” movement, and reach out to the leading national African American-owned banks to bring a branch office to Charlottesville to serve our community.
PILLAR 2: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Ultimately, the engine to build wealth is to hold a good job, establish a career, and especially to own your own business. The former Vinegar Hill community was not only a residential area, but also a place where culturally aligned businesses could thrive by serving local residents. We intend to support economic development by connecting residents to higher-paying jobs, helping to scale entrepreneurial enterprises, and offering affordable space for storefront businesses to put down roots in the midst of the communities they serve. Part of what makes businesses so successful is that social fabric, the social capital of a tight-knit community where residents support one another. To that end, we will invest in cultural, educational and mentoring programs that weave together a strong and vibrant African American community.
PILLAR 3: AFFORDABLE HOUSING
To us, affordable housing means units that are financially and geographically accessible to the heart of the community. Sometimes it will mean helping African American residents in our remaining historic communities to stay in their homes or buy the homes they are renting, and sometimes it will mean building new housing, but it will always meet certain core values: It should center African American residents within the city rather than continually pushing residents toward the outskirts of town, forcing them to trade rent cost for transportation cost. It should be close to good jobs, good schools, healthy food. It should be a neighborhood where residents don’t pay more than a third of their monthly income to own or rent. It should be a place where moving from the most affordable apartment into your first home means going no further than across the street, so if you want to, you have the option to stay in your own community or neighborhood and move up, not move out.