Challenges: Proposing new developments in or near established neighborhoods can be a tricky proposition. Especially so if the development provides for affordable housing. Virginia Supportive Housing and Luna Development faced a challenging environment in the City of Norfolk when they submitted plans for a $20 million project to develop 161 multifamily units on a neglected piece of land in the city. The units would be a mix of housing for formerly homeless individuals, affordable workforce housing, and market rate apartments. Despite concessions to the adjoining neighborhood, local opposition remained vocal. Virginia Supportive Housing engaged Commonwealth Partnerships (CWP) to help prepare for a looming battle at city council.
Solutions: CWP recognized the emotional nature of the neighborhood’s concerns, as unfounded as those concerns were. A good first step is always to talk with local leaders and influencers about a project and find common ground, but many neighbors were past this point, so we focused on winning the hearts and minds of city council members who would ultimately decide the project’s fate. We drafted strategic messaging for Virginia Supportive Housing and Luna, organized presentation prep, conducted mock presentations, and held multiple strategy sessions in advance of the city council hearing. We also developed large presentation boards to provide striking visuals juxtaposing the current site with the potential benefits of new development.
Results: Despite a long hearing on the matter, the city council approved the project to move forward. This approval came despite a large showing from those opposed to the new development.