Chamber Insider Blog

An Atypical Journey to Homeownership, as told by Lisa Kimball

This blog was written by our guest contributor, Lisa Kimball, who is the CEO of the Arc of Loudoun and the 2019 Chair of the Loudoun Chamber Board of Directors.

My hairstylist did it. It took several months to complete all of the paperwork and submit all of the documentation needed just to make it onto the waitlist: The first step in making this dream a reality was complete. Next came month after month of wishful waiting while living as frugally as possible to minimize expenses. Finally, the good news arrived: acceptance into Loudoun County’s Affordable Market Purchase Program (AMPP).

The next phase of her atypical journey was, ironically, rather typical and included the usual happy anxiety around what appliance packages and kitchen counter materials were within budget and which of the available exterior color schemes were available. And then it happened: after several years of renting rooms in friends’ houses in order to save commuting costs, my bachelor’s degreed, fully-certified, hard-working, business-savvy hairstylist-slash-shop manager closed on her very own home right here in Loudoun County, just 5 miles from her workplace in Ashburn.

During my hairstylist’s journey to home ownership, I spoke with her employer – the shop’s owner – about it several times.  Over the years the shop has lost some of the best and brightest stylists to businesses in West Virginia and beyond for the sole reason that employees want to live near where they work. Given the high cost of housing – to rent or to own – in Loudoun, one of the shop owner’s greatest challenges is recruiting and retaining great stylists when those employees often can’t afford to live close to the shop.

According to Loudoun County’s 2040 General Plan (Draft Version: March 13, 2019) – page 230: “Affordability challenges can drive employees to seek housing in other jurisdictions and require that they commute into the County for work. As of 2016, approximately 56 percent of Loudoun’s workforce resided in the County, while the remaining 44 percent commuted into the County daily.”

There are those who believe that having affordable housing options in our community means having undesirable neighbors who don’t work, make noise, leave messes, and overcrowd our schools. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. The teachers, first responders, service providers and healthcare specialists who successfully navigate the AMPP or somehow otherwise manage to find housing in the County that they can afford are the people that we all want as our neighbors.

And if you need a wonderfully talented hairstylist, let me know. I can point you to the best – and she has appointments available at convenient times because she now lives just 5 miles from the shop in Ashburn.

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Do you have a story to tell?  Please join me and fellow members of our community in urging our Board of Supervisors to seek to meet our rising housing affordability needs.  Go to the Chamber’s Loudoun 2040 Action page and follow the easy steps to get involved.

Photo via Loudoun Times-Mirror

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