A Danville-based agency is starting a Martinsville office that will specialize in fixing up dilapidated residential structures. They are the only two of their kind in the state.
A new nonprofit wants to flip Martinsville’s housing outlook on its head, and it hopes to do that one grant at a time.
“Martinsville would be a good place for people to migrate to,” said Kimberly Walker of the Center for Housing Education.
Walker is the director of project development and education for the center, a nonprofit funded by the Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority that began operating in Martinsville two months ago.
The Martinsville office, which will hold its grand opening on Thursday, will be just the second of its kind in the state, after the Danville location. Its primary mandate is to provide housing-related guidance to the public, including services such as financial management, credit counseling and pre-purchase counseling.
Walker said the center ultimately aims to bridge the gap between low-income households and secure housing. In Martinsville, which she described as having a lack of housing supply, that effort will include a program that she believes has potential to promote housing by flipping some of the city’s dilapidated residential structures.
The center calls it ARS, for “acquire, renovate and sell.” It allows state agencies and city governments to apply for funds of up to $40,500 per property, from a pool of $2 million. Those funds, courtesy of Virginia Housing, can then be used to renovate vacant homes in need of repair throughout Martinsville, Dansville, Henry and Pittsylvania counties.
“We are exploring all areas in Martinsville for rehab possibilities,” said Larissa Deedrich, executive director of the Danville Redevelopment Housing Authority. “No certain section is our focus area.”
The Center for Housing Education believes this is a chance to improve Martinsville’s housing outlook by overhauling some of its more dilapidated structures.
“We wanted to provide more houses in the area,” Walker said.
Agencies that take part in this program must pay back the loaned $40,500, Deedrich said, emphasizing that the program isn’t free money and is not a vehicle for the agency to make money.
“They have to go up to sale for a certain qualified income,” she said, explaining that the renovated homes must be sold to those who otherwise would have difficulty affording housing.
This encourages program participants to do what they can to sell their renovated properties. Although there isn’t a concrete timeline for paying the money back, the center prefers repayment to happen in less than two years.
While participants are on the hook to pay back the $40,500, the loan does help bolster a renovation project’s upfront capital, which Walker said is an important aspect of house flipping.
Derrick Ziglar, a Martinsville entrepreneur with experience in flipping and renovating houses, agrees.
“Capital is key because you are having to put money in it up front,” he said, adding that lenders are less inclined to participate in housing markets like Martinsville due to the city’s smaller size and other factors. “Having money up front is an important piece of that.”
Ziglar said that while $40,500 isn’t typically enough to completely renovate the kinds of properties found in Martinsville and other places throughout Virginia, he describes it as a good start.
“It is helpful,” he said. “It allows you to do things that you wouldn’t have done for that house because you have that extra money.”
Ziglar said that Martinsville could particularly benefit from this program.
“There are a lot of properties here,” he said. “That is super helpful, especially here.”
Walker said she hopes that others will also come to see the value in the program once the agency comes to start acquiring houses to renovate.
“We can definitely find some houses to work with,” Walker said. “We want to help a client, hopefully, move into their dream home.”