Local group makes offer to purchase Longwood Village

FARMVILLE – The town of Farmville needs affordable housing options. As one of the stated goals is to keep Longwood University students here in the community after they graduate, there first has to be housing in place they can afford on a starting salary. That’s where the alliance comes in.  The Farmville Affordable Housing Alliance (FAHA) has confirmed to The Herald they’ve made an offer to buy the Longwood Village property. This is the portion located behind Sheetz, just off of Clark Street in Farmville. 

“Farmville is a special town and unique market on many fronts,” said Jake Romaine. He serves as a managing member of the FAHA and vice president of the Farmville Downtown Partnership. “Unless you have an inside look into the market, we believe it’s difficult to solve local needs from outside the community. Our goal is to provide high-quality affordable housing options to everyone in our Farmville community.” 

Identifying a need

The group came together in the wake of a 2019 Affordable Housing Strategic Plan released by the Prince Edward Affordable Housing Coalition. It, and several reports after, detailed what many in the area already knew. As the lack of affordable housing options in the community grows, so does the need for it. 

Farmville isn’t alone in dealing with this problem either. Based on a Dec. 2021 report by Virginia’s Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission (JLARC), 29% of households in the state struggle with housing costs. Nearly half of those spent more than 50% of their income on housing, both rental and owned. And as mentioned, it’s a problem here locally. The study found 67% of households struggling with housing costs either lived in this region or in Northern Virginia.

So what’s causing this problem? Housing prices keep rising. The median home sales price here in Virginia climbed 28% over the last five years, to $270,000 at the end of 2021. In the last three years alone, Virginia’s supply of “starter” homes has dropped by 40%, says the Virginia Realtors Association. Enter the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).

That’s where FAHA wants to help. For example, instead of apartments that run between $1,700 to $1,800, the idea would be to create options on the $1,000 to $1,100 scale. This would be something that fits the budget of recent graduates. 

“(We’re) a group of passionate local investors who believe in making our community a better place to live for all residents,” Romaine said. 

Assembling a local team 

In addition to Romaine, several other familiar faces make up the FAHA. Michael Dieffenbach, who owns Dwellings Development and is another managing member of FAHA, has built more than 500 units similar to Longwood Village. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College and his wife Jessica, who is also working on the project, is a Longwood Therapeutic Recreation graduate. 

“After participating in Hampden-Sydney’s Beyond the Hill mission trips to third world countries,

I saw first-hand the impact safe and reliable housing can have on improving people’s lives,” Michael said. “These trips changed my life and since then, I’ve tried to help people less fortunate than me through developing affordable housing options.” 

Michael said he and Jessica consider Farmville to be their hometown. 

“As such, we recently made a personal pledge to invest in the future of Farmville, because of our love for the community,” Michael said. 

Looking beyond Longwood Village

Group members say they’re focused on Longwood Village right now, but also look beyond that to more projects. They want to work with Longwood, Hampden-Sydney, Centra, the town and Prince Edward County, along with local nonprofits and the faith community in the months and years to come. 

Romaine said the group wants to “identify key housing needs and help leverage state and federal monies to provide affordable housing solutions that are customized to the Farmville and Prince Edward community.” 

For more information on the group, you can click here.

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