Frequently Asked Questions
To make things easy, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common questions residents and community members ask about the St. Paul’s Transformation Project. Don’t see your question answered? Drop us a line at the link here.
For Community Members
For years, Tidewater Gardens has been home to one of the region’s highest concentrations of public housing, in which people live in 1950s-era buildings that no longer meet modern building standards. With a large portion of Tidewater Gardens built over an old creek bed, the area floods regularly, a problem worsened by crumbling infrastructure. Most importantly, the current community configuration creates a concentrated zone of poverty, segregation and crime that has defined the area for decades — a living, breathing geographical barrier that continues the cycle of poverty and results in physical, social and economic isolation, despite being right at the doorstep to Downtown Norfolk.
Under a $3.5 million annual grant, the City and its Redevelopment Authority have empowered Urban Strategies Inc., a national non-profit leader in comprehensive neighborhood transformations, to guide the community’s People First USI initiative. Launched in August 2018, People First USI seeks to connect the area’s public housing residents with housing, education, employment, healthcare, family-support and entrepreneurial opportunities to lead stable, healthy, prosperous lives. Each resident can decide whether to move outside the area, relocate to a different public housing community or return to the redevelopment.
The 115-acre redevelopment area includes the entire Tidewater Gardens public housing community. The area is bordered by:
- St. Paul’s Boulevard to the west
- Brambleton Avenue to the north
- Tidewater Drive to the east
- I-264/City Hall Avenue to the south
Through public-private partnership, the City of Norfolk is working to improve the lives of Tidewater Gardens residents and create a vibrant Norfolk community of the future. People First USI works in four key pillars to guide current residents through the transformation: education, economic mobility, health & wellness and housing stability. Transformation goals include:
- Increase self-sufficiency, financial independence, and successful outcomes for families by providing housing choices and customized supportive services of People First USI.
- Deconcentrate poverty and develop high quality mixed-income, mixed-use communities of choice.
- Provide access to excellent educational opportunities in partnership with Norfolk Public Schools, local colleges and universities and early childhood education institutions.
Tidewater Gardens will be transformed into a mixed-use, mixed income neighborhood for people of all ages, backgrounds and incomes. Redevelopment plans include:
- 714 affordable and market rate Carriage Homes, Town Homes, Multi-Family and Mansion Apartments
- Retail and Office Space
- 26-Acre Recreational Park with Blueways, Greenways, Trails and Natural Areas
- Innovative Tidal and Stormwater Control
- Historical and Cultural Exhibits
- Community Event and Gathering Spaces
- Public Art Installations
The City of Norfolk and the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority successfully applied for a $30 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhood Initiative grant leveraging public and private investments.
The Master Plan vision for the new St. Paul’s was developed through years of planning by engaged residents, businesses, church and community leaders, and dozens of interested stakeholders. An expert team of architects, engineers and developers then took their input and designed a mixed-income community that connects people and opportunity, eliminates decades of flooding, and continues the vibrant redevelopment of Downtown Norfolk.
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For Tidewater Gardens Residents
Your People First USI coach will provide information to help you make your housing decision. You will not have to move until you have received the 120-day notice for relocation and are provided reasonable choices for replacement housing – a decent, safe, and sanitary home that is at least equal or better than your present home. Your coach will assist you through every step of the process – before, during and after your move. Get started now with your People First USI coach so you will be prepared when the time comes.
Your People First USI coach will help you with transportation! Contact your assigned coach directly for details. If you have not been assigned a coach, please visit the People First office located at 521 Ruffner St. or call (757) 390-4365.
If you choose a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) issued by NRHA, your People First USI coach will work with you through this process. Your People First USI coach will assist you with completing and submitting an HCV application to NRHA’s Occupancy Department.
Once NRHA receives your application, you will receive a letter from the Occupancy Department with the date of your first interview and a checklist of the documents needed for the interview.
After your documents have been received and verified, you will be scheduled for your briefing appointment. At your briefing appointment you will receive information about:
- Rent payment standards
- How housing inspections are completed
- Using your voucher to move within or out of Norfolk and other important information
Following this briefing you will be given your HCV which lets you begin searching for your new home.
You will have 60 days to find new housing. It is important to stay in touch with your People First USI coach during this period, so be sure to connect with your coach as soon as you receive your voucher. They will help you with your search! If you are unable to find a new home that suits your needs, an additional 30-day extension can be granted to you to keep looking. You will need to keep a record of the places where you have searched for housing. If you need an extension to continue searching, you must contact the NRHA Occupancy Department before your voucher expires.
Once you find a house you like you will be required to provide the NRHA Occupancy Department with a copy of an unsigned lease and a Request for Tenant Approval (RFTA), signed and completed by the potential HCV landlord. We ask that the lease is unsigned to allow People First USI and NRHA staff the opportunity to review the lease to make sure it complies with federal, state and fair housing laws. The NRHA Occupancy staff will then determine if the property’s rent is reasonable and affordable for you and your family based on your family’s reported income.
Voucher holders are not required to have a job, but you may be responsible for additional expenses such as utility bills and other fees. Your voucher will never expire as long as you follow the rules and regulations of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and you remain eligible.
You will have to pay any rental application fees upfront and out-of-pocket. After you have relocated out of Tidewater Gardens, your People First USI coach will help you complete a relocation benefits packet. Once the packet is completed, it will be sent to NRHA for processing. NRHA will reimburse you for up to three (3) application fees.
NRHA will provide a grant to pay the security deposit for Tidewater Gardens residents.
Before a security deposit is paid, the following must happen:
- The HCV process must be completed
- The new home must pass the required Housing Quality Standards inspection
- The Tidewater Gardens resident must sign and provide a copy of the new lease to their People First USI coach
A deposit payment will be paid directly to the new landlord within seven (7) business days after the above steps are completed. It is important to note, any security deposit or credit being held by NRHA on your current apartment will not be refunded to you; instead the funds will be applied to the grant amount for your move.
You have a choice. You can either have a full-move with a NRHA-approved moving company where they will pack your belongings and move them to your new place OR you may select to self-move, where you are responsible for packing and moving your own belongings and you will be paid based on the number of bedrooms you have.
Self-move payments based on Tidewater Gardens bedroom size:
- One bedroom $900
- Two bedrooms $1,100
- Three bedrooms $1,300
- Four bedrooms $1,500
These amounts may be reduced if a household splits to form more than one household when you leave your current home. Your People First USI coach can offer more information. Full-move and self-move funding is offered as a grant, not a loan, so you do not have to pay it back.
For application fee reimbursements, you must provide a legible, written, or printed receipt to show the amount that was paid to the prospective landlord(s). If you don’t have a receipt, you may show proof of an electronic funds transfer (PayPal, CashApp, etc.) or a money order detachment with the name of the landlord to whom the funds were paid. The money order detachment must be filled in with the name of the company or person that received payment, along with the reason for payment (i.e. application fee).
For deposit payments (landlord and utility), you must provide a legible, written, or printed copy of the lease agreement and/or utility bill which shows the amount being requested.
For self-move reimbursement, you must remove all belongings and trash from your unit and turn in your keys to the Property Management staff.
Utility deposits will be paid by NRHA as a grant. It is important to note, any deposit or credit being held by NRHA on your current apartment will not be refunded to you; instead the funds will be applied to the grant amount for your relocation.
Connection fees for utilities will be reimbursed after you provide a legible, written, or printed copy of the utility bill which shows the amount due. Connection fees for utilities are given as a grant that you do not have to pay back.
You will not be reimbursed for the following:
- More than three application fees
- Holding fees for housing
- Any portion for a deposit and/or holding fee that is paid for a home that you decide not to occupy
You still have options even if things don’t work out! After being on the HCV program for one year, you can request that your name be placed back on the public housing waiting list with a priority status compared to other general applicants. To be eligible for this opportunity, you must remain in good standing with your landlord as well as NRHA. You will have 90 days at the end of your first year on the HCV program to submit your request in writing to the attention of NRHA Relocation Specialist, P.O. Box 968, Norfolk, VA 23501. Remember this opportunity expires 90 days after your first year in the HCV program.
Remember, your People First USI coach will stay with you after you move from your current home. People First USI services are offered for up to five (5) years after your move, no matter where you live. So make sure you stay in touch with your coach and give him/her your current contact information.