Developers argue local policy affects cost of housing

How much of a role does local policy play in determining the cost of housing? That was one theme of a panel discussion held on March 18, 2021 by the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership. (watch the video)

“There are a lot of factors that go into making something affordable, many of which we just don’t control locally,” said Charlie Armstrong, the vice president of land development for Southern Development, one of the area’s most active property developers. 

‌Every‌ ‌structure‌ ‌you‌ ‌see‌ ‌in‌ ‌America‌ ‌is‌ ‌reviewed‌ ‌at‌ ‌multiple‌ ‌levels‌ ‌of‌ ‌government‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌sure‌ ‌the‌ ‌edifice‌ ‌conforms‌ ‌to‌ ‌rules.‌ Armstrong said ‌too‌ ‌much‌ land use regulation‌ ‌increases‌ ‌the‌ ‌cost‌ ‌of‌ ‌housing and that localities can play a role through their own policies.  ‌

“We‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌community‌ ‌really‌ ‌do‌ ‌this‌ ‌to‌ ‌ourselves,”‌ ‌Armstrong‌ ‌said.‌ ‌“We‌ ‌intentionally‌ ‌through‌ ‌our‌ Comprehensive‌ ‌Plans‌ ‌and‌ ‌our‌ ‌zoning‌ ‌ordinances‌ ‌limit‌ ‌the‌ ‌supply‌ ‌of‌ ‌land‌ ‌for‌ ‌new‌ ‌homes.‌ ‌We‌ ‌intentionally‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌community‌ ‌limit‌ ‌the‌ ‌density‌ ‌of‌ ‌new‌ ‌homes‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌allowed‌ ‌on‌ ‌any‌ ‌one‌ ‌piece‌ ‌of‌ ‌land.”‌ ‌ ‌

Albemarle’s‌ ‌Comprehensive‌ ‌Plan‌ ‌sets‌ ‌aside‌ ‌roughly‌ ‌5‌ ‌percent‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌county’s‌ ‌726‌ ‌square‌ ‌miles‌ ‌for‌ ‌residential‌ ‌development.‌ ‌Armstrong‌ ‌said‌ ‌the‌ ‌community’s‌ ‌choice‌ ‌to‌ ‌let‌ ‌the‌ ‌rest‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌county‌ ‌ be‌ ‌rural‌ ‌has‌ ‌impacts‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌cost‌ ‌of‌ ‌housing.‌ ‌Limited‌ ‌supply‌ ‌drives‌ ‌up‌ ‌the‌ ‌cost‌ ‌because‌ ‌those‌ ‌with‌ ‌more‌ ‌money‌ ‌can‌ ‌offer‌ ‌higher‌ ‌prices.‌ ‌ ‌

For‌ ‌the‌ ‌land‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌available,‌ ‌it‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌time-consuming‌ ‌and‌ ‌expensive‌ ‌to‌ ‌navigate‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌zoning‌ ‌and‌ ‌special‌ ‌use‌ ‌permit‌ ‌process‌ ‌that‌ ‌can‌ ‌unlock‌ ‌higher‌ ‌residential‌ ‌densities.‌ ‌ ‌

Chris‌ ‌Henry‌ ‌of‌ ‌the Stony‌ ‌Point‌ ‌Development Group‌ said‌ ‌housing‌ ‌was‌ ‌more‌ ‌affordable‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌past‌ ‌because‌ ‌developers‌ ‌did‌ ‌not‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌comply‌ ‌with‌ ‌regulations‌ ‌to‌ ‌reduce‌ ‌stormwater‌ ‌runoff,‌ ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌requirements‌ ‌to‌ ‌build‌ ‌sidewalks‌ ‌and‌ ‌other‌ ‌public‌ ‌infrastructure.‌ ‌ ‌

 “Municipalities‌ ‌used‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌business‌ ‌of‌ ‌even‌ ‌in‌ ‌some‌ ‌cases‌ ‌of‌ ‌building‌ ‌roads,”‌ ‌Henry‌ ‌said. “They‌ ‌would‌ ‌put‌ ‌in‌ ‌stormwater‌ ‌and‌ ‌things‌ ‌like‌ ‌that.‌ ‌A‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌that‌ ‌has‌ ‌been‌ ‌pushed‌ ‌off‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌private‌ ‌sector‌ ‌for‌ ‌various‌ ‌reasons,‌ ‌a‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌them‌ ‌are‌ ‌reasonable.‌ ‌But‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌added‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌cost‌ ‌of‌ homes.”‌ ‌ ‌

 For more on this discussion, I’ve got an article in this week’s C-Ville Weekly that goes into more detailYou can also watch the whole presentation on the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s YouTube page


Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the March 25, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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