Supervisors Push Affordable Housing Proposals into New Year

County supervisors will pass to the next board a project to revise zoning law to encourage more affordable housing.

In doing so, they pushed back against proposed rule changes that would allow higher housing density in parts of western Loudoun.

The changes underway are geared toward both loosening some regulations to allow more people to build accessory buildings on their property, and toward bringing more units into the county government’s price-controlled Affordable Dwelling Unit program. During the board’s Dec. 11 public hearing, supervisors sent that project to their Transportation and Land Use Committee for more work, meaning the next Board of Supervisors, which takes office in January, will be the one to vote on it.

To encourage more units in the county’s Affordable Dwelling Unit program, the proposed rules supervisors saw last week include reducing the size of development projects required to participate in the program from 50 unites to 24; providing more flexibility in the bonus density increases offered to projects voluntarily contributing to the program; allowing developments in the Transition Policy Area to participate; and increasing the cost of buying out of the program for single-family detached developments from one-third of the unit cost to 100 percent of the cost to build those homes.

Another set of changes would allow more people to build accessory dwelling units on their properties, expanding the rules to allow them in any zoning district with single-family homes or townhouses.

Supervisors had some concerns about the new rules as proposed, including the proposal to expand the program into the transition area that buffers the suburban east from rural west, and in the Joint Land Management Areas that border some western towns.

“If we’re talking about putting ADUs in western Loudoun, I think that’s something we’ve all universally expressed skepticism over,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run).  Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) requested the ordinance allow increases in density only through rezoning applications, which require public hearings and Board of Supervisors approval, and that the new rules not bring that increased density to the transition area or Joint Land Management Areas.

He and Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) also requested staff members provide an analysis of how the new rules would fit with the new comprehensive plan, which also makes reference to providing more affordable housing.

Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) also expressed concern about allowing more developments to qualify for density bonuses by contributing units to the ADU program. Other supervisors were also concerned the new rules could allow more units than otherwise permitted in zoning on some properties without requiring a public hearing or a vote by county supervisors.  

“I guess the argument could be, well this was going to be by-right development anyway and there was no requirement for any ADUs, but it just doesn’t strike me that we’re gaining enough to justify it,” Umstattd said.

“There’s always opposing forces,” said Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “On one hand, we need affordable housing … and then you have the other side of it: People don’t want more density.”

Supervisors approved sending that work to committee 8-0-1, with Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) absent.

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