We will be celebrating 80 years of service to the Bristol community. Below is a short history of our first 80 years.
Recognizing that there was “a shortage of safe and sanitary dwelling accommodations in the City available to persons of low income at rentals which they can afford,” the City Council of the City of Bristol established by resolution on September 6, 1938, the Housing Authority of the City of Bristol. Following a series of organizational meetings in late 1938, the new Housing Authority took its first official action on March 27, 1939, and submitted an application to the United States Housing Authority for the development of Bristol’s first two public housing developments. Through subsequent actions during its first three decades, the Housing Authority of the City of Bristol transformed several rundown neighborhoods in the City of Bristol by removing dilapidated structures and developing more than 425 units of affordable housing. The Housing Authority of the City of Bristol, which in 1946 by Virginia statute was renamed the Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority, continues to manage these affordable housing units, as well as other housing assistance programs. Developing and operating public housing is, of course, what BRHA is best-known for in our community. And we are proud to provide this most basic of needs for citizens in Bristol…But BRHA has done quite a bit more than that for this community during its tenure.
During the 1960s and 1970s the Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority (BRHA) also served as the redevelopment agency for the City of Bristol, removing blight and assembling land in the downtown area. On the City’s behalf, BRHA managed the redevelopment of parcels that currently feature notable commercial and governmental structures, including: the City Courthouse, the City Jail, the WCYB media center, and Cumberland Square Park. In the 1980s BRHA issued mortgage revenue bonds to assist private developers in creating additional affordable housing in the city. From the 1980s on through today BRHA has secured grant resources for the community – to assist the needs of residents, and to modernize public housing apartments. During the past decade BRHA has been implementing its Master Plan to redevelop its public housing inventory. We have already redeveloped two sites, creating the Sapling Grove Apartments and the Village at Oakview; and have completed major renovations at another site across the street.
In addition to its primary mission to provide safe, attractive and affordable housing, the Authority has adopted a secondary mission to provide opportunities for families and others in need to achieve a higher standard of living. In keeping with this secondary mission, BRHA has provided, and continues to provide, programs that provide linkages to secondary education, job training, job placement, drug prevention, health services and preparation for home-ownership. Known collectively as our “Find a Way” program, these activities help residents attain self-sufficiency, which means, getting out of public assistance programs of all kinds, including public housing.
Today, BRHA is the largest provider of affordable rental housing in Bristol. Through our various housing programs BRHA serves more than 600 low-income households – this is approximately 7% of all households in Bristol and 40% of low-income rental households. The BRHA employs 28 staff members and has an annual operating budget of approximately $3.5 million, nearly $2.5 million of which are funds from outside of Bristol that we bring into the community – every year.
80 MORE YEARS OF GROWING WITH BRISTOL
Even while we celebrate the past we have an eye toward the next 80 years. BRHA is working to redevelop our affordable housing inventory and find ways to meet the needs of Bristol’s neighborhoods. Some of the things we are working on for the near-term future include:
- Doing some infill construction on a number of empty lots in the Historic Virginia Hill Neighborhood.
- We have created a community garden and are looking at perhaps a small park on some parcels we have acquired around our public housing developments.
- And re-purposing some public housing units to create more senior housing, and creating smoke-free communities.
As Virginia’s second-oldest redevelopment and housing authority, the Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority has, for eight decades, steadfastly provided housing and other services that would not otherwise have been available to citizens in the Bristol community. BRHA has provided safe, attractive, affordable housing in Bristol for thousands of families in need; we have changed the landscape of Bristol, both in neighborhoods and in business districts; we have invested 10s of millions of dollars in the community. We have truly been Growing with Bristol and are proud of what we have accomplished…so far!