Faith group unveils plan to rebuild blighted homes


Jews in Northern Virginia were part of a coalition of some 50 religious communities that announced a $30 million reinvestment plan to rebuild deteriorating communities in Prince William County.

The coalition, Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, or VOICE, unveiled the plan June 3 at a Woodbridge school in the presence of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and executives of financial institutions that agreed to finance the rebuilding.

The plan will restore 100 blighted homes and create 1,500 units of affordable rental housing over 15 years, according to the group.

“It’s our defining fight,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe, who attended the meeting with a delegation from Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church. He called it the most significant issue that VOICE has taken on.

Prince William was hard hit by the foreclosure crisis that followed the real estate collapse in 2008. There have been more than 20,000 foreclosures in the county, the highest number of any locality in the state, according to the group.

The announcement came after 18 months of negotiations between VOICE and the financial institutions, brokered by Warner. Bank of America agreed to finance $10 million in low-interest loans, General Electric $5 million and Virginia Housing Development Authority $15 million, according to VOICE. JPMorgan Chase, also part of the negotiations, “is trying to work something out,” Saxe said.

“I congratulate VOICE for its success in securing significant commitments from leading banks in order to begin fixing some of the mess left behind from exploitative lending practices in Prince William County leading up to 2008,” Warner said. “VOICE and other faith community leaders have worked tirelessly to help families while holding banks responsible for their prior bad actions.”

As the meeting ended, Saxe offered a blessing together with Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center and Rev. Larry Craddock of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Woodbridge.

“We gave thanks for the progress we made and called on members of VOICE to be sure to follow up,” Saxe said. “We said that justice is not guaranteed unless there are people standing at the gates calling for it.”

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Twitter: @davidholzel


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