Supervisors open new discussions on affordable housing initiatives

Supervisors in Loudoun got their first glimpse of a long-awaited strategic plan to tackle the high cost of housing in the county on Tuesday evening.

The Strategic plan on unmet housing needs was called for in the 2019 General Plan, the first rewrite of the county’s comprehensive plan in nearly 20 years. The general plan recognizes and calls for a solution to the problem of the cost of housing in Loudoun. But despite years spent on this plan, it gave no detailed action to address this issue, but instead set in motion work on the separate plan of unmet housing need. This work began in September 2019.

The draft plan first highlights the need to provide housing for a range of incomes in Loudoun. These include factors ranging from the importance of good housing to the health and well-being of children and families and its importance for the economic stability of workers and families, to the relief that locally available housing can provide. bring for traffic and long journeys.

It also highlights the growth and changes in the county. According to the draft plan, from 2000 to 2015, Loudoun created more than 67,000 new jobs, a growth of nearly 77%, and young working families are expected to be a key part of Loudoun’s growth over the next 25 years, through jobs and schools and amenities.

And a significant number of Loudoun residents work in lower paying sectors, while at the same time houses in Loudoun County tend to be larger: 48.3% of all dwellings have four or more bedrooms.

In 2019, according to the plan, 35,000 households in Loudoun are overburdened with costs, spending more than 30% of their income on housing. And most of them are low-income households, who feel this pain the most – they may then have to choose between housing and other necessities.

Both the General Plan and the Unmet Housing Needs Plan predict that most of the county’s future growth will occur in the New Urban Policy Area, which centers around future Metrorail stops. But this area is also already widely developed, he notes. And the plan recognizes that even small units in this area, without rent controls or government investment, will be too expensive for many people.

Given the scale of the problem, the plan offers a wide variety of goals to tackle the problem.

One is for the county government to take a leadership role in coordinating and collaborating among organizations such as nonprofits, social service agencies, the private sector, and affordable housing developers.

Another might see the county scrambling to find land to build affordable housing, including using public land for housing, buying and holding land in a land bank for use, and creating or operating. partnering with a community land trust, which would hold land and lease it to homebuyers representing the area’s median income.

The county should also seek funding sources for this work. New sources have already been found, such as the Belmont Ridge Affordable Housing Trust of 1992, which was established to help income-qualifying home buyers with a second mortgage, a loan to cover down payments, for homes purchased. in the development of Belmont Ridge at a certain price point. These properties have risen in value so much that no one who can buy a home there meets the income requirements, leaving $ 750,000 essentially unusable, locked in the fund.

The county could also look to other sources of state and federal funding.

Another goal would be to see the county put in place incentives to build affordable housing and increase access to that housing. And the county could change its policies, for example by pledging not to lose affordable housing.

Supervisors should then present the draft plan to a public hearing.

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