Virginia Builders, County Make Progress on Housing Affordability

Filed in Codes and Standards, Land Development by on October 2, 2018 0 Comments

oth wheel mechanism with partnership-related words The Augusta HBA had a problem: Restrictive county ordinances and expensive permit fees were making it more and more difficult for members in these communities of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to build affordable homes.

That made it a county problem, too: The scarcity of homes in the $200,000-$250,000 range could make it increasingly difficult to attract new manufacturing and other businesses to the area because it would be too expensive for many workers to live there.

And that, reasoned HBA board member Scott Williams, president of Crescent Development Homes Inc., meant there was a partnership in the making.

“We started from the perspective that we need to partner up with the county and get them to accept our view of the struggle – and its collective cost on our community,” Williams said.

Together, he said, they could begin to solve the county’s affordable housing problem. But first, the HBA needed some reinforcements. Williams contacted the HBA of Virginia and the state and local government staff at NAHB.

“NAHB and the HBA of Virginia provided Scott with data and studies on what makes housing more expensive and of what other localities have done to lower costs,” said Karl Eckhart, NAHB vice president of intergovernmental affairs. It’s assistance that all HBAs can tap into when negotiating with state and local jurisdictions, he added.

The HBA suggested holding a summit with county leaders to talk about solutions – and the county agreed. The summit was open to the public, and covered favorably by the local newspaper.

The builders explained the barriers. For example, the county requires that developers pay an $8,000 fee for water service – but that fee is required when the land is plotted, even if the water meter isn’t installed for one or two years.

And reducing the required 75-foot lot width in the county’s zoning requirements to 50 would allow builders to cluster homes and save development costs.

County leaders listened and are now ready to talk about solutions, Williams said. More small-group meetings are planned to hammer out the details and summit participants will reconvene this winter.

“This successful meeting with local government took place in no small part to the combined efforts of the NAHB, VA HBA, and an active local builders association,” Eckhart said.

HBAs looking for state and local government assistance can contact Eckhart via email or by calling 202-266-8319.

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