County Considers Affordable Housing Change

By: Michael Gorsegner
By: Michael Gorsegner

August 3, 2006

As the price of housing in Albemarle County continues to rise, interested buyers find more and more houses creeping out of their price range. Some County lawmakers are trying to address that problem.

Right now, Albemarle County has a policy in place that asks developers to set aside 15 percent of new homes for affordable housing. However with the approval of North Pointe last night, that strict policy may be changing a bit.

"No doubt that this community is red hot. We live in a community where people want to live," said Jeff Werner.

To live here is costing more money. New homes are popping up everywhere in Albemarle County, but these homes are becoming unaffordable for many.

"As long as you have a strong housing market in an area that's in high demand, you're always going to have some price difficulty in housing," said Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dennis Rooker.

The median price of a home in the County in 2005 was $285,000 with new homes running almost $340,000. The current plan calls for affordable housing to be priced at $190,000, but gives little other guidelines.

"So a plan by its very nature is broad and somewhat ambiguous and unfortunately allows [for] interpretation," Werner said.

To counteract that ambiguity, Albemarle County is considering changing its current policy from a strict $190,000 price to a sliding scale. The goal is to include more potential homeowners.

"We're trying to consider a policy that will encourage some units that will be slightly above [$190,000]--what we would call affordable housing," Rooker said.

In the approval of the North Pointe project, developers set side single family homes that will cost qualified buyers around $230,000. A welcome start but Rooker said everyone needs to chip in.

"It's not a problem that's going to be solved by government working alone. We recognize that we want to be a part of the solution but we're not going to be the total solution," he said.

The County is also considering a land trust program where a private company owns the land while the homeowner simply owns the house on the land. This option would be much easier for the homeowner, because the price for the house would be a lot bigger without the land that goes with it. However, that option is still in its infancy.

This very topic will be discussed by the planning commission on August 29.

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