The Charlottesville City Council is hoping to expand the tools it legally can implement to support affordable housing.

Because Virginia is a Dillon rule state, localities only have powers specifically granted to them by the state. One of the powers Virginia has not granted to Charlottesville is inclusionary zoning, which encourages or requires developers to incorporate affordable housing into their projects.

On Monday, the City Council discussed the city’s requests for changes in state law as well as the requests from the surrounding counties involved in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Mayor Nikuyah Walker proposed that the city ask their legislators to sponsor a bill to allow inclusionary zoning.

“It’s a fairly simple change, but it could be a very big change. What we ultimately are asking is that General Assembly include Charlottesville in the list of localities — that includes Albemarle County — that have the authority to have a very broad affordable housing program that includes inclusionary zoning as an option,” City Attorney John Blair said.

Councilor Kathy Galvin suggested the city incorporate support for a “tax circuit breaker” study into their legislative packet. The circuit breaker would support tax relief for low-income homeowners paying high property taxes.

“This is a refund of state income tax itself, when your real estate tax gets to X,” said Housing Advisory Committee Chairman Phil d’Oronzio when the policy subcommittee discussed the packet on Nov. 14. “That’s a no-brainer.”

Walker also proposed that the city support Virginia switching from being a Dillon rule state to a home rule state, which would allow local governments to perform all government functions except those specifically banned by the state government.

City Council unanimously approved both the city and TJPDC legislative packets.


Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.