The mission for Restoration Housing seems to be, in small bits, to provide more affordable rental housing in Roanoke City. Last year an older home on Day Avenue was rehabbed and turned into a two-family rental property; in late April they cut the ribbon on another century-old home at 1018 Patterson Avenue – two bedrooms downstairs, three upstairs, two families, in a “Queen Anne” style house.
Isabel Thornton, the principal player with Restoration Housing, said they put about $200,000 into the project. Much of that will be covered by the use of historic tax credits and a Community Development Block Grant, said Thornton. Together with her husband Lucas they have also developed properties in downtown Roanoke, including an apartment complex on Williamson Road near Church Avenue. Historic tax credits means they often have to be “very compliant” during the restoration process, noted Isabel Thornton – keeping the hardwood floors, the original windows, etc.
Thornton said they aren’t quite sure how old the Patterson Avenue house is, but it’s over 100 years old, as are others on the block, several of which are currently being renovated by other organizations. Thornton said the rental rate is tied to 60 percent of the area’s median income, making it affordable for more people. “It’s very high quality, all new appliances, marble countertops – we want to have a really high quality product that is also affordable.”
Restoration Housing is moving on to renovate the old Villa Heights mansion in northwest Roanoke that had been used as a recreation center; non-profits including the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Virginia have expressed an interest in moving there once that makeover is completed.
“We increasingly find worse and worse houses as we go,” said Isabel Thornton with a chuckle, “but they are always salvageable. [They] look really bad when you walk in but you get contractors, structural engineers, everybody to come and [you ask] can we make this work? If we’re convinced by them, there’s always a way to make it work.”
The impact on the families that will move in is meaningful said Thornton, adding that the impact on the neighborhood as a whole is also “huge. There’s a lot of other investment on this block, with the Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity houses flanking us on both sides. Just to see neighborhoods that are historic, beautiful, walkable neighborhoods in Roanoke getting reinvigorated – that’s really important to me.”