Proposed rules for inclusionary zoning in Charlottesville ready for review

The summer of zoning review continues in Charlottesville with the release this week of a document that is intended to increase the number of required homes that must be rented or sold at below-market levels. HR&A Advisors has put together an analysis and recommendations for how a “inclusionary zoning” policy would work. 

“The affordable housing plan adopted in March 2021 calls for the city to develop an [inclusionary zoning] policy that supports Charlottesville’s housing needs and meets the needs that the market will otherwise now address,”  said Callahan Seltzer, principal with HR&A, in a video sent out with a press release. 

Since 2007, the city has had an affordable housing fund in place to subsidize units. In March, Seltzer told Council that nearly $46.7 million has been disbursed through this fund, though the city has struggled to keep track of the funding. For instance, there has been no housing coordinator in place for over two years. 

The affordable housing plan also calls for city taxpayers to pay $10 million a year toward projects and programs. The Comprehensive Plan adopted in November calls for more residential density across the city to allow for more units, and the inclusionary zoning policy is intended to prevent all of them from being market-rate. 

“HR&A Advisors and the city has recommended an inclusionary zoning policy that requires affordable housing for any housing development that includes more than ten units and offers incentives to any development with nine of less units to also include affordable housing,” Callahan states in the video. 

HR&A Advisors are suggesting the city aim to provide the affordability level at 60 percent of area median income with a term of 99 years. The affordable units must be equal in size to the market rate units and density bonuses and parking reductions would also be part. 

“There will be a density bonus of 25 percent for units ten or more, and there will be a two unit bonus in General Residential areas and a four unit bonus in the medium intensity zones,” Callahan said. “In addition there is a parking reduction of up to 50 percent.” 

The full video runs for 45 minutes and provides a detailed analysis of how the incentives may balance out the need for a property owner to charge higher rent. One page states clearly subsidizing at high levels costs more money. One chart appears to state that it would be infeasible to rehabilitate existing single family homes to achieve affordability, and that instead new construction of buildings with taller heights could accomplish the goal. 

Public comment on the Draft Zoning Approach and Diagnostic will be taken through September 6. City Council and the Planning Commission will hold a work session on September 27. Here’s the survey form in English and here’s the survey form in Spanish.

The presentation is filled with charts that seem to signal that the solution to create more affordable units will be new construction of more houses. Who will benefit from understanding all of these rules? 

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 August 24, 2022 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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