Chamber Insider Blog

Movement in Solving the Affordable Housing Problem in Loudoun

Post co-written by Government Affairs Manager Brian Fauls and Kim Hart, of The Windy Hill Foundation, who is a member of our Public Policy Committee

Recently, Governor McAuliffe announced $6.9 million in new grants and loans to create 550 affordable apartments across Virginia.  Northern Virginia will receive $2.45 million of those funds.  Loudoun County, will get exactly NONE of those funds. 

Housing costs are a major factor in the economic challenges facing Loudoun County and the greater Washington region.  Addressing this problem is going to require federal, state and local government programs and private sector involvement. 

In December 2015, the Board of Supervisors approved a zoning ordinance change – supported by the Chamber – that is a potentially a game changer for workforce/affordable housing projects in Loudoun County.

By tradition or County ordinance (and allowed by state law) land developers promise to provide affordable workforce housing as part of a land rezoning application. They get no “real” benefit for this donation other than approval of their rezoning application.

However, eight years ago, the Board of Supervisors approved a new zoning district called PD-MUB (Mixed Use Business) with a built in incentive to create more affordable housing in the county.  For the very first time, developers were given an increased density IF they provided more affordable workforce housing than required by County ordinance.

The FoxGate and Kincora projects used this new zoning designation and the County got about 130 more units of affordable workforce housing than it would have as a result.  Unfortunately, those projects also demonstrated that the first version of PD-MUB was complex and very hard to implement on the ground. As a result, only those two development projects ever used the PD-MUB designation; and Loudoun County lost out on the chance to bring hundreds of new affordable housing units into being. 

So, at the request of the Board of Supervisors, the independent Zoning Ordinance Action Group (ZOAG) spent eight months in 2015 rewriting and improving the PD-MUB zoning regulations. This was important work by itself. However, ZOAG made two additional changes of great importance to affordable workforce housing. First, the new version of PD-MUB now provides a second and even greater density boost in exchange for even more affordable workforce housing. Second, and again for the first time, PD-MUB makes it very clear that both Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) and HUD financing programs can be used to fund this housing. This seemingly minor change will now make millions of dollars of state and Federal funding available to support the construction of more affordable workforce housing in Loudoun County that was never available before.

The new and improved PD-MUB zoning has just been enacted, so it’s a little too early to tell whether the development community will embrace PD-MUB as a development option.  If they do though, Loudoun County just took a significant step forward towards solving our affordable workforce housing challenges. 

Let your voice be heard! The Chamber’s Public Policy Committee meets monthly. Email Brian Fauls, bfauls@loudounchamber.org, Government Affairs Manager for more information. 

 

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