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February 20, 2009

Board of Supervisors evaluates Affordable Housing Task Force recommendations

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The recommendations of the Joint Task Force on Affordable Housing were presented to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on February 11, 2009.  The Board discussed each recommendation individually in order to determine whether action was appropriate or necessary at this time.  The strongest recommendation of the task force to local government is to establish an annual, dedicated stream of funding for affordable housing.

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Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd (Rivanna) questioned whether the language in the recommendations referring to the local housing affordability issue as a crisis was appropriate.  Boyd said that he did not feel like the area is worse off than other places in the country.  “Is this the most critical need facing our County today?” Boyd asked.

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) did not feel that the County could commit to a permanent, dedicated, annual fund for affordable housing.  She discouraged the Board from taking action that would imply that they would do that.   “We don’t have the money and I don’t see us doing this, in the coming year at least,” said Thomas.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) explained that the board could recognize the recommendation to show the public that they have interest in contributing dedicated funding in the future.  He suggested that the Board defer taking action but include this fund in the budget deliberation process.  At that point, the Board could determine if the need for this funding outweighed the need for funding for other County programs.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked the rest of the Board to consider if there was a lot more demand for affordable housing than the County has already been able to deliver.  He pointed out that money is already allocated to deal with this issue through the Piedmont Housing Alliance.  “This is a general recommendation to do something we are already doing,” Rooker said, “I don’t see this recommendation as involving an increase.”

Supervisor Slutzky explained that the consensus view of the Task Force was that the money was not necessarily going to all the right places and that the dedicated funding stream was in response to that concern.  “The County is not spending enough money particularly on addressing the affordable housing needs of the zero to fifty percent [Area Median Income] AMI category,” said Slutzky.

The task force recommended that the County create a regional housing fund to accept funding from both private and public sources.   The fund differs from the existing fund in that it could be allocated to people of different income levels and used for purposes other than down payment assistance.  

The task force also recommended that the value of affordable homes proffered by developers be capped to help ensure affordability past the first owner.  Supervisor Rooker expressed concern that this change to proffers would discourage developers from building affordable housing in high-end areas.   Supervisor Slutzky responded that it is up to the developer whether they want to build affordable units or give cash proffers. “We put the burden on the developer community,” Slutzky said.

The current Comprehensive Plan includes that the County would like to see 15% of new units as affordable for those making 80% of the AMI.  Developers have been targeting that number in determining the cost of their affordable units. “We really don’t have an affordable housing proffer policy,” County Attorney Larry Davis said.  “We have a set of practices that the Board has accepted to address a Comprehensive Plan provision we have,” he said.

“I’m not comfortable saying that today I support every component of this recommendation,” Supervisor Rooker said.   He expressed doubt that capping the value of affordable units would help to increase the amount of affordable housing.

Supervisor Thomas suggested that the task force divide the recommendations up by the level of income they are targeted to help.  Supervisor Slutzky directed the County’s housing committee to examine the deed restriction item quickly and to present further study of the recommendations in order to make it clear to the board whether the proffer recommendations will be effective. 

The Board of Supervisors indicated it would  not give further consideration to the recommendations for paying its employees a living wage, for issuance of general obligation bonds for affordable housing, or for providing funding for loans to developers of affordable housing units. The Board did agree to receive more information on other proposals and specifically asked that more information be provided on the deed restriction recommendation.

Additional recommendations of the task force include:

  • Supporting and creating new security measures in existing neighborhoods in order to make them more attractive and livable for residents. 
  • Promoting use of tax credits by developers by offering technical assistance.
  • Reviewing and removing unnecessary regulatory barriers in the development review process while ensuring that affordable housing is still equally environmentally sensitive and safe as other housing.
  • Consider issuing general obligation bonds for affordable housing. (No consensus reached)
  • Provide funding for loans to developers of affordable housing.  (No consensus reached)
  • Continuing to support Habitat for Humanity
  • Supporting regional transit network options
  • Supporting a living wage (No consensus reached)
  • Establishing a housing ombudsman office
  • Supporting the Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust

Fania Gordon

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  •  01:15 Supervisor Boyd  questions whether "crisis" is the appropriate word.
  • 02:30 Supervisor Slutzky says Task Force was convened to identify the gaps in affordable housing.
  • 05:00 Supervisor Thomas says County lacks money for dedicated fun. 
  • 07:00 Supervisor Slutzky says Board should acknowledge affordable housing as a relevant concern.
  • 07:45 Supervisor Boyd asks, "Is this the most critical need facing our County today?"
  • 11:00 Supervisor Rooker says money is already being dedicated to affordable housing.
  • 13:00 Supervisor Slutzky says the recommendation was to spend significantly  more.
  • 15:15 Supervisor Slutzky explains that the Task Force's recommendation means either increasing the tax rate or taking funding from something else for affordable housing.
  • 24:00 Board votes to differ action on this point to whether it makes sense in the budget process.
  • 25:00 Board discusses creation of a regional housing fund to accept funding from both private and public sources.
  • 29:00 Board discusses specific funds that are not subject to re-appropriation at the end of the fiscal year.
  • 36:00 Board discusses specific proffer policies
  • 36:30 Board discusses capping proffered units
  • 46:30 County Attorney points out that there is no formalized proffer policy.
  • 49:00 Supervisor Rooker explains that he is not comfortable supporting all recommendations.
  • 52:00 Supervisor Slutzky asks that the housing committee examine deed restrictions further
  • 57:00 Supervisor Thomas suggests that recommendations be divided by who they are meant to target.
  • 1:03:30 Supervisor Boyd asks if there are developers on the housing committee
  • 1:04:00 Board discussing single-room-occupancy recommendation
  • 1:08:00 Board discusses removing regulatory barriers
  • 1:11:00 Supervisor Rooker discusses whose obligation it is to fund affordable housing with general obligation bonds


 

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