First draft of regional housing plan unveiled

Burnet Commons, a mixed-income housing development constructed with support from Habitat for Humanity in Charlottesville. The group hopes to build on a 13-acre county-owned site in Ferncliff.

The draft regional housing plan released in June by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission makes a number of specific recommendations for how to address Louisa County’s housing challenges.

The recommended steps are broken out to address five distinct categories: the unhoused or homeless; affordable rental; affordable ownership; market-rate rental; and market-rate ownership.

“The main challenge the county will have to address in the near future is the growing demand for diverse housing options to cater to a residential population in different stages of life at varied income levels,” according to the draft document.

The county has 38 unhoused people, the study estimates. This population would benefit from setting aside local funds for emergency shelter and supportive housing geared toward people experiencing homelessness. Other suggestions include financial incentives for private landlords to rent to the unhoused.

The affordable rental section targets renters making 80 percent or less of the area median income of $74,000. Some 610 renter households are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Of these, 250 are severely cost-burdened, spending over 50 percent of income for shelter.

In this section, the report proposes reduced water and sewer tap fees for housing developments that include affordable units; a toolkit to encourage accessory dwelling units on the same property as single-family homes; more duplexes and single-family attached houses; expanding the capacity of existing nonprofit housing agencies; and better tracking of the vacation rental market.

The study’s recommendations to help with affordable homeownership, again focused on people making less than 80 percent of the area median income, include some of the same suggestions made for affordable rentals. The number of severely cost-burdened households in this category is 890, according to the study.

One of the proposals is to inventory county-owned property to determine the feasibility for affordable or mixed-income homes. The county is currently working with Habitat for Humanity on a potential mixed-income development on a 13-acre site in Ferncliff.

The market-rate rental category targets households with incomes of 80 percent or more of the area median. There are 20 cost-burdened households in this group. Among market-rate ownership units, 100 households are cost-burdened. Here the report recommends promoting homebuyer education and financial literacy courses to increase awareness of the long-term costs of homeownership.

The planning district commission and its partners will work with Louisa County officials to fine-tune the housing study before it is finalized. To view the draft report, go to this link: cvillepedia.org/images/Planning-For-Affordability-Draft.pdf. The Louisa County section begins on page 121.

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