Housing Advisory Board Seeks to Broaden Mission

The Housing Advisory Board, a guiding force in the Loudoun’s efforts to encourage affordable housing, is asking county supervisors for the go-ahead to tackle housing problems more generally, but has met some resistance.

The board has been behind foundational work in the county’s housing strategies over the past several years, including leading housing needs assessments in 2007 and 2015 that shaped county policies, recommended creating the housing fund that today supports a revolving loan program to finance affordable housing projects, and establishing a grant program to help county employees to find homes in Loudoun.

And while the panel’s focus has always been on affordable housing, board chairman Brent Campbell said it needs to broaden its scope to tackle the problem. The median income in the area is $117,200, which Campbell said is enough to reasonably afford a $351,000 house. But in Loudoun, according to the census bureau, the median home price is $462,100. The 2015 housing needs study found 2015 median sale prices ranging from $250,000 for an existing condo, to $690,469 for a new single-family detached home. It also found about 30 percent of all Loudoun households are “cost burdened,” spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

“One of the problems that we’ve been wrestling with when we talk about affordable is that we’re not talking about just a small segment of the population—we’re talking about people who have gone to college, have good jobs, they’re making six figures, and they can’t afford to live here,” Campbell said.

However, the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee recommended scaling back those ambitions, and county staff members worried the changes would lead the advisory board away from its original focus.

“I don’t think we need a group that’s going to get into virtually every kind of housing,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “And by the way, 100 percent of area median income of $117,000 a year—if you can’t find housing at $117,000 a year income, then I think your appetite’s a little too big, because there’s plenty of options for you out there. You may just not get the house that would be your dream house.”

The finance committee recommended most of the advisory board’s requested changes to its bylaws, however supervisors reinserted a focus on “affordable” housing. The committee did recommend allowing the advisory board more flexibility in which county departments provide them staff support, previously specified to be the Department of Family Services.

The Housing Advisory Board’s bylaws now go to the full Board of Supervisors for a vote June 21.

This article was updated Thursday, June 21 at 2:35 p.m. to correct misattribution of statements by Brent Campbell.

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