Regional Housing Partnership officials appear before Charlottesville City Council

It has been a year and a half or so since the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission adopted a document called Planning for Affordability that sought to help all six regions in the community update the housing chapter of their respective Comprehensive Plan. 

The work is part of something called the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership, a subset of the TJPDC. This month, members of the partnership have been appearing before different elected bodies to share what the group does. Albemarle County’s turn is this Wednesday, but Charlottesville City Council saw the presentation on January 17. (view the presentation)

“The ‘why’ behind the partnership was created is that we all know we have housing affordability issues and its not just specific to any one jurisdiction that’s in the Commission,” said Ned Gallaway, the Rio District representative on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. “It is a regional issue and while regional solutions may vary depending on if you are urban or rural, perhaps our solutions with our boundaries, but the information sharing, the data collection, and the efforts should be shared to help us all solve the problem.” 

(view the presentation)

Partnership meetings are intended to be places to discuss issues such as length of time it takes to get a building permit.  That came up at the meeting in December, for instance. 

Gallaway said that each locality still controls its own policies, but the partnership serves as a way for staff in each to be able to get resources. 

“Think of the Regional Housing Partnership as a living tool box if you will,” Gallaway said. “If you need a place to bounce ideas off of or to discuss or to pull data from, that’s what you would come to the partnership for.” 

A major force behind the creation of the partnership is Keith Smith, a Realtor and Fluvanna County representative on the TJPDC. 

“I’m a private sector person,” Smith said. “It was part of the thought process in helping put this together [that] I was finding that the public sector, the nonprofit sector, and the private sector just really weren’t communicating well. They were speaking the same thing but in different languages.”  

Smith shared recent housing data that indicates that the number of units available for sale is going up but the price of each is also going up. 

“The units are all over the map but the prices are climbing up,” Smith said. 

In Charlottesville, the median sales prices for existing single family detached homes increased from $349,000 in 2018 to $475,000 in 2022. Existing townhomes, duplexes, and other single-family attached homes increased from a median sales price of $250,000 in 2018 to $328,000 in 2022. 

“Most know that I also chair the [Piedmont Community Land Trust] and I know a little about what the sales prices need to be to hit the 80 percent to 60 percent [area  median income],” Smith said. “And the sales price to do that needs to be at preferably below $200K but you can probably squeak it up in today’s interest rates to about $215K. Once you start going over that, you can’t fit within the 60 to 80 percent AMI.” 

Smith said the partnership also has a data committee that seeks to help get more information out to community members. Another idea for the partnership is to create a regional land bank for affordable housing projects. The partnership is pursuing a grant for a feasibility study at this time. 

City Councilor Brian Pinkston wanted to know if the partnership has access to the skills of an economist to model scenarios.

“What would it look like to have adequate supply?” Pinkston asked. “Theoretically I guess as supply goes up, costs go down but in Charlottesville it feels like no matter what you do, because of the draw of the University and because of the fact that it’s such a great place to live, it’s not fungible.” 

In other words, a ten percent increase in supply would not necessarily increase a corresponding decrease in price. 

Gallaway said the partnership still has limited funds and currently could not afford to hire an economist, but could apply for grants to do so. Smith said the data committee would look into the idea as well. 

Councilor Michael Payne said continued subsidies are the only solution for the many people in Charlottesville who are below 60 percent of AMI. 

“At this point we’re almost kidding ourselves if we think the supply side solutions are going to be enough to ever meet the biggest need in our community and we have to invest in subsidies and community land trusts, and a land bank because it’s just not going to be enough otherwise,” Payne said.

The Affordable Housing Plan adopted by Council in March 2021 morally commits the elected body to spending at least $10 million a year on housing. For more details on that, visit Information Charlottesville for a collection of previous segments on housing from Charlottesville Community Engagement

What do you want to know about the market? I now write a weekly column for C-Ville Weekly and I’m looking for ideas and questions to track down. It’s one area that so many don’t understand, and perhaps together we can figure more of it out. 

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 January 31, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: