RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s no secret that rent in Richmond has been rising precipitously over the last few years. Now, Habitat for Humanity is pushing forward with their housing program in the city, with a price tag that’s sure to turn heads.

The organization has unveiled two new rental homes, built as part of a pilot program to provide affordable housing in the city. The 3-bedroom houses, located in North Church Hill, are now occupied by families taking part in Habitat’s Affordable Homeownership Program.

(Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity)

According to a press release, the families were stuck paying high rents for substandard housing, which was preventing them from saving up for a down-payment on a home of their own.

“As rental costs in the City of Richmond and across the country have skyrocketed,” said Mary Kay Huss, CEO of Richmond Metro Habitat for Humanity, “Richmond Habitat saw a distinct need to provide more affordable rental opportunities to local individuals who are working towards achieving their goals of becoming homeowners.”

The average rent on a 3-bedroom apartment in Richmond was over $1,500 in 2021 – and it’s risen rapidly in recent years, far outpacing inflation.

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The average monthly mortgage payment on a Habitat for Humanity home in Richmond, by contrast, is just $600. According to Habitat Richmond, that’s partly because of a serious affordable housing shortage in the city, with 20,000 affordable units needed to meet demand.

While the program is starting small, four more houses are already planned for Richmond’s Southside, pending zoning approval from the city.

Looking further ahead, Richmond Habitat is deciding how to balance affordable rentals and a pathway to home-ownership.

“We haven’t really figured out what that mix is yet,” said Director of Communications for Richmond Habitat Kristin Vinagro.