StudioIX: Good morning, Chelsea.
Chelsea Hill: Hey! Good morning.
Studio IX: Thanks for taking a moment to sit down with me. Let’s jump right in. Can you tell us who you are and what you do?
Chelsea: My name is Chelsea Hill. I am the site manager for GEM Management’s new property being built on Fifth Street, Timberland Park Apartments. It's an affordable housing complex. We have an income cap, applicants can't make over a certain amount, but for those that fall under the income cap, we try to help them out as much as we can. Affordable living in Charlottesville is impossible.
Studio IX: It is becoming increasingly difficult. Can you tell us what’s most fulfilling about the work you’re doing?
Chelsea: My people. I get to meet people every day. Just getting to know everybody, and listening to a little bit of their background stories, about what happened and why they're here. What happened in life situations and why they need affordable housing.
Studio IX: What drives you? What are you passionate about?
Chelsea: Making others happy. I think making a difference in somebody's life, to get to do so, makes the whole job worth it.
Studio IX: What led you to the work you’re doing? How did you get started?
Chelsea: So, I am a RN (Registered Nurse). I worked for two years in the NICU and I worked on the Labor & Delivery unit. It's a lot to the job, emotionally,. You get super attached to your patients. So, I still wanted that every day connection with different people, but not so much of the heart-pulling aspect of the job. I could meet with different people every day and help them out but not have to watch them pass away,
Studio IX: That would be extremely difficult.
Chelsea: Yeah, I did it for 3 years.
Studio IX: And how long have you been with GEM?
Chelsea: 4 months now.
Studio IX: Can you share a memorable story from your time at GEM? Something that stands out to you?
Chelsea: Yeah. I have an applicant, she's actually moving in with us, an older lady. She's super sweet and the house that she's living in, the owners are selling it from under her and they're kind of basically renovating other houses around her, kind of pushing and weaseling her out, she's been in that house for 8 years and she's an older elderly lady and she has Section 8 and everybody knows it's hard hard hard to find housing in Charlottesville that accepts Section 8 and then she had called me and she said: “please tell me you take Section 8.” And I said, “we do”. And just from then on, her whole attitude about life and moving and things were just getting better for her just by me telling her, yeah, we accept Section 8. And just to see her go from being severely depressed, not knowing where she was going to go and to be able to see her happy and striving and having somewhere to go at the end of this month, to live, is amazing.
Studio IX: Can you explain for those who may not know, this Section 8, the connection, when she asked that?
Chelsea: Gosh. Section 8 is housing assistance that the government passes out for those who do not make quite enough money or have a whole bunch of kids and rent is just on the last of their priority list. So the government puts you through an application process and you do all those verifications of where all your income is coming from and then they base that off of how much they give you and they take care of your rent until you either pass away or you don't need the Section 8 anymore.
Studio IX: And programs like yours accept it though there might be other programs that don't.
Chelsea: Yeah. So there's a lot of housing, a lot of private owners that don't take Section 8. A lot of the high end apartments don't accept Section 8. A lot of the comfortable living situations in Charlottesville, around the town centers or the hospitals, none of these places accept Section 8 and so it's nice to be able to have an apartment complex that's based in the middle of Charlottesville where they can still be on the bus line to get every place they want to go without having to make all these crazy connections to get back in town because a lot of these people that have Section 8 don't have vehicles too. So, it's hard for them to get back and forth.
Studio IX: Yeah. And is Section 8 maxed out?
Chelsea: Yes. Section 8 has a two and a half year waiting list.
Studio IX: Oh wow. Okay.
Studio IX: Can you share an aspect of your work that might surprise people to know?
Chelsea: The amount of paperwork. I think I've done more paperwork here than I did at the hospital and just to make sure every little small detail matters. Like if there's a line blank, that whole application has to be redone. Or, if we send something out to them to approve and we missed a date, an initial, a check mark, it's re-do everything. And so it's very stressful and so it's a very attention-to-detail oriented job.
Studio IX: And when did GEM come about?
Chelsea: GEM just celebrated their 25-year anniversary. They're based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. They recently started venturing out. They have two hundred and fifty other properties that are all below North Carolina. So now they're starting to venture up to this part of the United States, to see if we can continue to put affordable housing complexes all over the United States.
Studio IX: That's great to hear.
Chelsea: We have elderly establishments, we have affordable housing and family, low-income family housing, any type of low-income, low-rent budget-based, we try to take as much government assistance as we can to make sure the rent is affordable in each state that we go into.
Studio IX: Where do you see things headed in the next 5 to 10 years?
Chelsea: We’re very hopeful. So Timberland Park is the test child of Charlottesville at this point so if we do really well, we'll probably build another three to four apartment complexes throughout Charlottesville and hopefully I will see myself managing each of those sites.
Studio IX: Beautiful. Here’s hoping.
Studio IX: What do you like most about being here at Studio IX?
Chelsea: The quietness. That I can go to my office at 7 o'clock at night, because you know weird people do that, and, work and be able to go in and out and just be in quietness and serenity and be able to hear myself think.
Studio IX: Did you not have that before?
Studio IX: Where were you guys?
Chelsea: We were at a hotel, using their conference room and so we, you know, had people walking back and forth, cleaning crews and stuff like that. With our job you need quiet space to concentrate and I definitely get that here.
Studio IX: Being able to sit down with people and to do so whenever you want.
Chelsea: Yes. Quietly and privately. You don't have to worry about somebody overhearing your personal information and stuff like that.
Studio IX: That’s it. Thanks again, Chelsea. Greatly appreciate your time.
Chelsea: Thank you.