Hinton Avenue church aims to build new affordable housing units

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The pastor of Hinton Avenue United Methodist Church wants to provide more options for residents in the Charlottesville community with a new affordable housing project.

Lewis is looking to build Rachel's Haven next to the church, which would provide 15 affordable apartment units.

"As a church, we can fulfill our mission to be the best neighbors we can," Lewis said.

The new housing project would also provide up to six units for people with developmental disabilities.

"This project encompasses supported living for adults with intellectual disabilities as part of an integrated community so they're not segregated or put to the side, but they're living with other folks in different apartments," he said.

Rachel's Haven is also dedicated to Lewis' wife, Rachel, who passed away three years ago.

"The name came about because of my wife, Rachel Downs Lewis, who was a pastor and a good chunk of her ministry worked with people with intellectual disabilities. She died of breast cancer in 2016," Lewis said.

The plan would also include making units accessible for everyone in the community.

"We're planning to make all of the units fully disabled accessible so there wouldn't be any differentiation, whether someone is in a wheelchair or not, which is great for elderly residents as well," Lewis said.

The plan is still in the works as the church looks to rezone the area next to the church as a neighborhood corridor commercial-mixed use.

A couple of neighbors said they had concerns with parking, daytime traffic, and safety for kids living in the area.

However, Eric Anderson said his concerns were addressed at a meeting about the project held last Thursday in the church.

He said the recent proffers eliminate retail and commercial use for the units, a plan Anderson supports.

"Personally I was pretty excited about kind of mixing things up here in the neighborhood a little bit," said Anderson.

This plan is also something Lewis hopes to fulfill to help residents in need.

"Those who are the most vulnerable in our society would have a dream and a hope of a place of their own and the fullest life possible," Lewis said.

If the plan moves forward with the Charlottesville Planning Commission, the earliest Hinton United Methodist Church could start construction is in 2020. It leases part of its facility to a tenant until that time.

Rachel's Haven will be discussed by the Charlottesville Planning Commission during a meeting on June 11 at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

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