Blacksburg to address affordable housing shortage with $1 million federal grant

Annual federal funding will go towards lower, middle income housing in town

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Blacksburg remains an in-demand place to live, but finding a home or rental in town has become a challenge due to a limited supply. The town hopes to remedy the situation with its annual round of Housing and Urban Development funding.

The town received $1,150,576 in grants from HUD for two programs: Community Development Block Grants and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

Assistant to the town manager Matt Hanratty oversees those projects and said the need is crucial for more lower-income and middle-income housing.

“You want everybody to be able to afford a house based on what their incomes are,” Hanratty said. “This is a piece of the puzzle, of the larger picture. These funds really help us get things going that wouldn’t happen in our community.”

Hanratty said his focus will be to develop more housing for those who are not Virginia Tech students.

“We really need that non-student housing and it’s tougher and tougher to find in Blacksburg, especially with a market that is so tight,” Hanratty said. “We want to put people across the income spectrum in a good position to invest in the future of their home and life in general.”

While Blacksburg develops its plan for the HUD funding, those who live in town shared their stories of how hard it was to find their living space.

Nick and Kylie Garrity moved to Blacksburg from Philadelphia expecting rent to be cheaper in the New River Valley; however, the married couple looked through at least five apartments in one day before finding the home for their budget.

“A lot of the places where we were hopeful to live, that hope evaporated when they shared the price as we started our tour,” Nick Garrity said. “We wanted to stop the tour right there when we realized we can’t afford it.”

Even though the Garritys ultimately found an apartment, they said the next struggle is saving up for a house in town.

“I look at the prices of homes here in town and realize even if we save for another 10 or 15 years, we couldn’t afford something in this town anyway,” Garrity said.

Jordan Brown, a fifth-year student at Virginia Tech, said he experienced the housing crunch as both a resident and an advisor at the university’s housing department.

“I had to focus on finding an apartment eight to nine months before I actually had to,” Brown said. “I was seeing students that couldn’t afford housing or got kicked out because they couldn’t pay rent, and not having any options.”