Chamber Insider Blog

Eye on Loudoun: We Need Houses!

Post by Government Relations Manager, Eric C. Johnson
View more posts by Eric, here

If you have spent much time around Supervisor Suzanne Volpe, you have likely heard her say “A house is where a job goes to sleep at night.” Loudoun County has jobs, just not enough houses for those job workers to sleep in.

Dr. Lisa Sturtevant, in cooperation with the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, recently released the Loudoun County Housing Needs Assessment 2015-2040. I read the 267 page report, and a few things popped out at me. (Click here to watch the video from our State of Workforce Housing event, which was held earlier this month to discuss the report.)

Loudoun’s population has climbed more than 107% since 2000. (Side note – I found it interesting that the Asian population has grown 543% during that time) Currently, about 61,000 individuals drive into Loudoun to work each morning and leave each night; this includes more than 40% of our county government workforce – teachers, county administrators, deputies, firemen, and other essential government workers. Most of our workforce that drives in each day are coming from either Frederick County or West Virginia. For many of them, commuting is necessary because they can’t find a suitable, affordable housing option in Loudoun.

As our population has grown, so has the price of homes. Since 2000, the price of a single-family detached home has risen 86%, with the median sale price now standing at $550,000. Due to this increase in price, more than 29% of Loudoun households are now ‘Cost Burdened,’ meaning that they spend 30% or more of their gross income on housing.

The report states that, “Many would-be home owners have been excluded from the market because of rising home prices, flat incomes, and more restrictive lending.” The report shows that the need for affordable housing is greatest among those making $87,350 or less.

Based on projected employment-driven housing demands, there is expected to be more than 60,000 new housing units needed between now and 2040. This includes all types of options, from small apartments to large detached single-family homes.

This may come as a surprise, but as I see it, there are only two ways to solve this problem: The first is to build more houses. The second is to make Loudoun less desirable to live in and thus drive away interested home buyers. I don’t know about you, but I like option one a whole lot more.

In 2015, Dr. Salim Furth published a paper with the Heritage Foundation which stated that government policies such as restrictive zoning were placing additional financial burdens on families. Local land-use restrictions can increase housing costs by over $200,000,000,000 a year across the nation!

In September of 2016, the Obama Administration released a Housing Development Toolkit. I would recommend anyone involved with housing development read that publication. It pointed out that when you have a lack of housing, commute times increase, which will result in a drain on employees’ physical and mental well-being as well as have a negative impact on the environment. What’s one way to improve the situation? We must streamline the permitting process and reduce restrictive zoning practices, which keep developers from offering a variety of housing options.

Ryan McMaken, with the Mises Institute, wrote earlier this year regarding the lack of affordable housing. He pointed out, again, that the rising house prices are because of a lack of supply where it is needed.

Everyone agrees – build more houses, and you will start to relieve the housing congestion issue. Loudoun can’t afford to put this off any longer.