That would have been the not-so-happy
ending for many projects, but not in this
Ms. Jones knew the housing committee
would have to go before the County Board
of Supervisors to officially confirm the
application denial—and that’s where she
spotted her window of opportunity.
The Habitat steering committee outlined the merits of its projects. But Ms.
Jones also went in armed with another
powerful incentive, pointing out that if the
application was denied, the county could
lose its stimulus money for affordable
“The current political environment in
the county does not support high-density,
subsidized rental properties, therefore
zoning for this type of property would be
a long process and probably would be
rejected,” she says. “The U.S. and global
financial debacle has also negatively
impacted the value of the low-income tax
credits needed to make this type of project
Habitat was the only entity in the county
with access to federal stimulus money.
The team made its case.
Again the group waited for a response,
and again, it didn’t hear anything.
With the clock ticking, Ms. Jones’ team
had to scramble to launch yet another campaign, this time directed at the County
Board of Supervisors.
“Our steering committee set a goal to
get in front of each of the nine supervisors
before the final vote,” she says.
Team members managed to speak with
three supervisors and then hand-delivered
letters to the others. Two days later, they
were convinced they had three of the nine
votes, but the rest were up in the air.
“It was a nail-biter,” Ms. Jones says.
She knew the odds were stacked against
her team because the board would have to
actually overturn the housing committee’s
decision. Despite the odds, she held out
And the board came through, at least
On 4 November, it approved the two
largest of the four projects in a five-to-three vote, with one absentee. Habitat was
awarded US$500,000 to purchase and
rehab six of 13 foreclosed properties and
complete a five-unit subdivision of newly
constructed homes. The decision came just
in time for the organization to leverage federal stimulus funds to purchase its first
Persistence—and a strong reputation—
“Habitat has a tremendous track record
in Loudoun County of building homes for
low-income families,” says Jim Burton,
who was one of the five supervisors to
approve the grant. “Their application met
every one of our criteria and they have a
reputation for producing results. I felt their
projects would be a valuable contribution to
The Habitat team has already sold a
newly constructed home to a partner family
and is actively looking for another fore-
closed property to purchase—not bad for a
bunch of projects that seemed doomed to
fail. —Sarah Fister Gale
Habitat was awarded
to purchase and rehab
six of 13 foreclosed
complete a five-unit
subdivision of newly