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Albemarle board backs policy dealing with affordable housing

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has endorsed a new policy to help tackle affordable housing needs in the community, but will not formally adopt it until its July 7 meeting.

During its meeting Wednesday, the board decided to support delaying implementation of four major actions until a developer incentive package is established, and the documents will come back with annotations noting the delay for formal approval.

New affordable housing requirements and definitions — that rezonings/special-use permits have 20% affordable housing, changes to unit prices and extended periods of affordability — will be delayed until incentives are approved.

The county has been working on an updated affordable housing policy since 2019.

Some supervisors were hesitant to support the policy objectives with the delay without knowing the incentives, but ultimately were OK with a policy that included the delay.

Stacy Pethia, the county’s housing policy manager, said the policy would work without those elements.

Deputy County Executive Doug Walker compared it to doing the Small Area Plan around Rio Road and U.S. 29 and then working to establish a form-based code.

“It would have been much more difficult, we think, to have done the form-based code work without the policy framework that was contained within the planning document of the Small Area Plan,” he said.

Board Chairman Ned Gallaway questioned if it would take a full year to identify and implement developer incentives, as there seemed to be only a few that developers have suggested.

“I think some very specific incentives, that can get right to the heart of the cost concerns that developers have, can be done in very short order,” he said. “Adding time is never something I’ve heard a developer want to do, so why would they like nine months to 12 months to get incentive packages if we can figure this out pretty quickly.”

Pethia said many of the other items could be done ahead of the incentives, and she would be willing to change the timeline.

Gallaway said the board has to make transit a priority, as well.

“That’s the next big bold step that we’re going to have to be looking to,” he said. “It’s going to come fast on the heels, if affordable units start to go up and we don’t have a good system of moving folks around, those units are not going to work for those folks who can afford the rent.”

Relief aid

Albemarle is now planning to wait to use a majority of its American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Albemarle’s CFO, Nelsie Birch, said the county already has received $10.6 million, and expects to receive the rest of the funding, another $10.6 million, next May. During a March work session, supervisors endorsed a county staff-recommended framework for how to spend the first chunk.

On Wednesday, staff recommended to the board that the county use approximately $7 million to fund immediate-need projects in the coming fiscal year, and keep the rest as part of the budget processes for fiscal years 2023 through 2027.

“One of the additional pieces of information that we didn’t know in March was that while the deadline is still kind of Dec. 31, 2024, it’s really when we have to encumber the funds to then execute and we still have two more years — we didn’t know that,” Birch said. “That additional two years to get the project done and pay the invoices is really two additional years to help us make sure we can spend the funding, which aligns really beautifully with our fiscal 2023 to 2027 budget planning process.”

She said $4 million will be spent in the coming year on economic vitality, which includes human services, and business and economic support. The approval for the projects would come through the county executive’s office and then be reported to the board.

“Much of this is because of the acute nature of the need … and some of this will maybe have to move a little bit more quickly in some of our other funding,” she said.

The other $3 million will be used for broadband.

The board is scheduled to approve appropriations for the funding in July.


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