The Board of Supervisors’ Transportation and Land Use Committee has recommended zoning changes that would allow more houses in the Transition Policy Area in a bid to make some of those houses more affordable.
The changes are part of a larger project to encourage more attainable housing in Loudoun in cheaper-priced units and in price-controlled Affordable Dwelling Units. They include revisions to zoning law such as reducing the minimum size of development that would be required to provide Affordable Dwelling Units, rule changes to allow more accessory units by single-family homes, and considering eliminating an existing exemption for buildings over four stories high with an elevator.
But supervisors on the committee were split over allowing developers to increase the number of units they build in the Transition Policy Area if some of those units are put into the Affordable Dwelling Unit Program. The proposal would allow developers to increase the number of units by up to 30 percent, with the percentage of that increase being the same as the percentage of those additional units that must be put in the Affordable Dwelling Unit program.
Under the rule, if a developer could build 100 units on a parcel by-right, they would be able to build up to 130 units if nine of those were ADUs—30 percent of the additional 30 units.
According to county staff, that has the potential to allow up to 300 more units in the Transition Policy Area, which has long served as a buffer between development and suburban sprawl to the east and the green, undeveloped and historic spaces in the west.
Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) pointed out that the Board of Supervisors has already recently increased the development allowed in the Transition Policy Area with its new Comprehensive Plan, a trend he and many Loudoun residents fought throughout the three-year process. And, he pointed out, he had predicted that affordable housing zoning amendments could come with yet more Transition-area development.
“The Transition Policy Area was the most heated argument or discussion point for the board and for the community, and the overwhelming majority of folks did not want the additional houses to be added to the Transition Policy Area,” Buffington said.
The previous Planning Commission recommended allowing more than 15,000 more homes in the transition area than under the old plan; by the time of the final vote, supervisors had whittled that down to only 2,180 more than the old plan.
“I don’t believe that we should use the housing affordability study as a way to add another 200-300 houses on top of that,” Buffington said.
But other supervisors on the committee supported the change.
“The Transition Policy Area was never meant to be the Rural Policy Area,” said Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “The Transition Policy Area was meant to be transition, and so you don’t want as many houses or high as density of houses in the suburban policy area, but you also don’t have no new growth like we’re doing in the Rural Policy Area.”
She argued that to get affordable housing, new houses must be built, and they are unlikely to be built in the Suburban Policy Area or new Urban Policy Area. The Affordable Dwelling Unit program also applies in the Suburban Policy Area; zoning ordinances for the Urban Policy Area, newly created in the new comprehensive plan, have not yet been written.
She also pointed out that most of the Affordable Dwelling Units in Loudoun are rentals.
“If you really want to change the trajectory of someone’s life, and if you really want to help people get out of generational poverty and get into generational wealth, you give them a home that they can buy that’s affordable,” Randall said. “It’s not just about renting something, it’s about having affordable homes to purchase.”
Supervisors voted 3-2 to recommend the changes to the full board, including the Transition Policy Area Change. Supervisors Buffington and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) voted against the changes; Supervisors Randall, Sylvia Russell Glass (D-Broad Run) and committee Chairman Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) voted for them.