The Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties is hoping to move the needle on one of the most foundational elements of a community’s health and wellbeing.
The foundation works to build the community through grants, fundraising and partnerships. When one of the foundation’s donor-advised funds, the Loudoun Community Cabinet, sought a high-impact way to invest a million dollars, they decided that housing is foundational—leading ultimately to the kickoff of Workforce Housing Now, a broad push to build support for tackling Loudoun’s housing cost problems. President and CEO Amy Owen called on the campaign’s supporters—who range from business owners and nonprofit leaders to elected officials—to use their voices.
“Today, we’re going to use our philanthropic voice with a new community service campaign: to share the absolute need for workforce housing now in Loudoun County,” she said Tuesday. “Our goal is to ensure that Loudoun has a dedicated and sustainable source of funding, that it can have impacts and move the needle, and that our community takes advantages of the various tools and innovations available to us.”
Housing is both one of the biggest predictors of a person’s well-being and one of the biggest drags on Loudoun businesses. Tony Stafford, founder of Ford’s Fish Shack, said he is short about 40 employees across three restaurants—employees who can’t afford to live in Loudoun, increasingly can’t afford to commute to Loudoun, and pass many other restaurants on their way into Loudoun.
“It’s never been a tougher time than now to find employees,” he said.
Loudoun Habitat for Humanity President and CEO Therese Cashen said she has seen homes make all the difference both for individuals and communities through the nonprofit’s work to help people attain their own home.
“Those of us involved in this work know that a hand up is long-lasting and life-changing,” she said. “Study After study draws a direct line between housing availability and the well-being of our communities through great economic stability, access to quality education, increase civic and social engagement, and better health. We see these results here in Loudoun with our homeowners because they now have the stability and security to live and work in Loudoun County.”
“We can literally predict your lifespan based on your ZIP code. Where you live makes all the difference in your health and education outcomes,” Owen said. “And so for the Community Foundation to weigh in on this issue, with our philosophy of growing charitable giving to build common good—the intersection is pretty real.”
Some of that outreach also will be led by Sharon Wright and her company Loudoun Clear Marketing, who have partnered with the Community Foundation to get the message out.
Much of the progress will depend on tough decisions for local government. And Supervisor Sylvia R. Glass (D-Broad Run), who attended the kickoff, said she’s on board. As a teacher, she said it would be impossible today to move into Loudoun with her job.
“It’s also impossible for people who are our custodians, people who are bus drivers, the teacher’s assistants, to find a place here as well,” she said. “So having those conversations with those folks also makes me want to work even harder to have workforce housing.”
She also said it will be important to increase the stock of for-purchase attainable housing, and that she’s heard from many people who have been renting for years and can’t save up the money to buy their own home.
“I think we’re going to have pushback, because when we talk about infill housing, people become concerned about traffic on the roadways, they’re concerned about the schools being full to capacity—all of those issues have to work as well,” she said.
The county has adopted an Unmet Housing Needs Strategic Plan, and supervisors and staff members continue to examine both funding sources and zoning ordinances to encourage attainable housing.
“Loudoun County is a great place for residents to live, work, and play, but many households are spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing costs which is making it harder and harder for them to stay in the county,” stated Community Foundation Director of Community Engagement Allison Metzger. “This especially affects our teachers, first responders, frontline workers, and young professionals who want to make Loudoun home.”
Learn more at workforcehousingnow.org.