Before reading this update, if you haven’t already, read this story for some context on Albemarle County’s housing policy.
During Wednesday evening’s Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting, board members unanimously opted to table the vote to adopt a new housing policy. The supervisors were expected to take a vote that evening but instead deferred a decision to its next meeting on July 7.
The “Housing Albemarle” policy is the result of nearly two years of work by county planner Stacy Pethia and other staff, and it is the first step in Albemarle’s state-mandated Comprehensive Plan update.
The county last updated its housing plan in 2004.
An April 2019 study by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission that showed just how dire the housing crisis is spurred not only the plan’s contents but the urgency surrounding it, Pethia told Charlottesville Tomorrow in a previous interview about the policy draft.
Wednesday, the board spent two hours on the “Housing Albemarle” agenda item, with Pethia, Deputy County Executive Doug Walker, Director of Community Development Jodie Filardo and County Attorney Greg Kamptner answering board members’ questions about individual policy objectives and related strategies and action steps.
(Watch the full meeting here; discussion of “Housing Albemarle” begins at the 2:12:27 mark and ends at the 4:17:14 mark.)
Most of the discussion centered around how a proposed Housing Trust Fund would work — would it be separate from or combined with the current Housing Fund (depends on how the board wants to write the guidelines, said Pethia) — and on creating economically-feasible incentives to encourage developers to either construct or preserve affordable (and low-income) housing throughout the county.
Seven community members spoke during the public comment period. Three spoke in favor of the policy, so long as it was amended to include more details on viable incentives for developers; one spoke on the importance of livability (access to amenities and shopping, green space, etc.), as well as affordability; two representatives from IMPACT voiced support for the policy and asked the board to appropriate $3 million in funds from the county’s allotment of American Rescue Plan Act into the policy’s proposed housing trust fund by January. And a representative from the town of Scottsville’s planning office shared her office’s support of the plan.
Overall, board members said they support the concepts in the policy and are eager to approve it as soon as possible in order to address the ongoing and worsening housing crisis in the county. But they asked to see more definition of an incentive package for developers before voting to adopt the policy. As Supervisor Donna Price said, the concepts in the policy “makes us feel good about what we’re approving,” but seeing that incentive package and how it will help the county achieve the policy objectives, would help her understand how and that the policy is actually viable. Other supervisors echoed that sentiment.
“We recognize that 90% of this is great, and we’re throwing darts at 5, 10% of it,” said Supervisor Ned Gallaway, thanking Pethia and other staff for their work on the policy.
“The Board has asked staff to add documentation to the policy document that implementation of the proposed 20% affordable housing under rezonings and special use permit applications; the changes to the pricing of affordable housing units; and the proposed extension to the affordability periods; be delayed until a package of developer incentives is created and approved,” Pethia wrote in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow the day after the meeting.
Once that documentation is added to the policy, the policy will once again go before the board as a consent agenda item.
If adopted during that July 7 session, the housing policy will become a chapter in Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan.